Primary Theme of "To Kill a Mockingbird"To Kill a Mockingbird is based on education but I see it as more a racial basis and about judging people before you get to know them. How?
I see the book as having a huge racial component, and let's face it... the racial inequities are the worst examples of unfairness… but there is so much more here. Boo is a perfectly normal young man who is condemned to a life of agoraphobia by a father who most likely abuses him. Mayella is definitely physically and probably sexually abused by her father but everyone looks the other way instead of dealing with that problem. Even the racists like the Cunninghams are caught in this trap of ignorance. People don't understand or care about the damage being done to others and that just leads to more and more injustice and hatred. Teaching people to see the truth and face it (the way Atticus is doing with his children) is the way to combat that injustice.
One of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou (Oprah likes it too and quotes it often on her show) is: "when you know better, you do better." This novel is about Scout and Jem learning what "the better" is through their childhood experiences.
The truly scary people in this novel are those who are ignorant in some sense, but do not recognize it. They don't know any better, but they are arrogant enough to think they know it all. Some examples of this are old Mr. Radley, the Ewells, Miss Caroline, and Mrs. Dubose.
Atticus is a hero because he doesn't pretend to have all the answers. He does the best he can as a father and as a lawyer, and that is enough to make his home and his town a better place.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is from Atticus. When the children ask Atticus if he is a "nigger-lover" (they have been taunted by this phrase by children as school), Atticus responds with, "Yes. I love all people." He completely turns this phrase--meant to be hurtful and ugly--into something positive and compassionate. Because of the way Atticus treats Calpurnia and his children, I know Jem and Scout will be the best kind of adults. We all learn a lot by reading this book...I picked up some parenting tips, and I hope others who read it pick up tips on being human. Love knows no color or handicap. Can't we all just get along?
The early scenes of Scout in the classroom show the underlying theme of learning. Miss Caroline learns about the town, Scout learns about being fair and open-minded - and compassionate - because of Walter Cunningham, etc.. Lee also mocks the "education process" in talking about the Dewey Decimal System and "projects" to demonstrate that real learning isn't about theory, but about practice and experience. As the story goes on, Scout's real learning takes place because of the experiences of the town and the influence of the people around her.
Education and learning can take place anywhere and not just in a classroom. Lee is teaching us that prejudice and judgmentalism are wrong.