What are the consequences of ignorance and prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird? Please include some quotes which support the answer. Thank you!!

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ignorance and prejudice lead to negative consequences in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Because the children are ignorant of the nature of Arthur Radley, they project negative characteristics upon him, assuming that he is a "haint," or a ghostly creature. They believe that Boo Radley is tall. He dines upon any raw squirrels and cats that he can catch. Since Boo is of such a reclusive nature, the children feel that they can trespass on his property and try to lure him outside. One evening as the children sneak near the Radley house, they hear a shotgun fired near them. Later, their father scolds them and orders them to leave Boo alone. In addition to enduring the pranks of children, Boo has long suffered from the rumors and gossip of the town. As a consequence, he has become a recluse and loses his social skills. 

Further, because of racial prejudice there is an antagonism created among some of the townspeople toward Atticus Finch for being the defense attorney of Tom Robinson. Mrs. Dubose hurls insults at Atticus's children. At school, Cecil Jacobs tells the others that Scout's father "defends n*****s." Even Scout's cousin, Francis, calls Atticus insulting words. Indeed, much racial hatred is stirred by this animosity toward Atticus.

One of the most hateful of the citizenry of Maycomb is Bob Ewell, who falsely accuses Tom Robinson of having raped his daughter. His racial hatred propels him and his daughter Mayella to falsely testify against Tom, an action that leads to Tom's conviction and his death. When he blames Atticus for his rejection by the citizens of Maycomb, he spits in Atticus's face. Later, he tries to kill Jem and Scout, but Boo Radley saves them. Bob Ewell ends up with his own knife in his body, dying as a result of his bigotry.

After Jem realizes the cruelty of the people in Maycomb, he remarks,  

“I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up . . . it's because he wants to stay inside.” (Ch.13)

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this question depends on if you are referring to consequences in the negative sense, positive sense, or both. Typically, many regard a consequence as being something as negative, but this is not the case. A consequence is simply the result of an action.

This being said, there are many consequences in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Given that Bob Ewell is a racist, the ultimate consequence that he faces for his own ignorance and prejudice is his death. If Ewell would not have been angry with Atticus and gone after the children, Boo would not have had to protect the children which resulted in Bob's death.

Another consequence in the novel is that both Scout and Jem see their father as a different person based upon his actions regarding the ignorance and prejudice he is forced to face as a result of taking on Tom Robinson's case. In the following quote, Atticus explains to the children about looking at a person for who they are, not what color they are:

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."


Well the most obvious consequence of ignorance and prejudice is racism which eventually leads to the tragic death of Tom Robinson.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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