What is a description of each four social classes in To Kill a Mockingbird?Thanks :)

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Jem there are "four kinds of folks in the world."

"There's the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes."  (Chapter 23)

Naturally, Jem's theory is both childlike and simplistic, but in the little world of Maycomb County--whose boundaries Jem and Scout never cross during the entire novel--his idea is not totally inaccurate. The Negroes are on the bottom of the Maycomb social ladder, beset by poverty, racism and the Jim Crow laws in effect throughout the Deep South during the Great Depression. The Ewells are the epitome of "poor white trash": Filthy, hateful, dishonest and unemployed, the family lives off Bob's welfare check and what they can "glean" from the dump, which their home fittingly borders. The Cunninghams are as poor as the Ewells, and their dislike of Negroes is evident by their decision to take Tom Robinson from the jail and lynch him. But unlike the Ewells, the Cunninghams display their independence by living isolated "in the northern part of the county," where they attempt to eke out an honest living as farmers. Young Walter Jr. comes to school hungry but in clean clothes, unlike Burris Ewell, "the filthiest human I had ever seen." Jem considers most of the rest of the townspeople as "ordinary," for they share many of the same beliefs and behaviors as the Finch family. They live in homes on Maycomb's residential streets, where the fathers hold down jobs and the families attend the local Methodist and Baptist churches.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Towards the end of chapter 23, Jem takes Scout into her room to prevent her from arguing with Aunt Alexandra and discusses the four types of folks in Maycomb, which is essentially the four social classes of the community. Jem tells Scout,

"There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes." (Lee, 230)

Essentially, there are the white, educated professionals, who make a decent living and come from financially stable families. The "ordinary kind" refers to Maycomb's middle/upper-class families, who occupy the top position of Maycomb's caste system.

The "kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods" occupy the second position of Maycomb's caste system and refer to the working-class farmers. They are not as wealthy or educated as the townspeople but have an important occupation nonetheless.

The third level of Maycomb's caste system refers to the poor, dysfunctional white families like the Ewells. These individuals have no jobs and the only thing separating them from the marginalized black citizens is the color of their skin.

African Americans occupy the last level of Maycomb's caste system. Despite the fact that they are fully capable, hard-working, respectable citizens, black individuals are discriminated against because of their race. 

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem states that there are four kinds of people in Maycomb County: "There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes.” Jem refers to his family as "ordinary," but in reality, they are the exception. They are white people who live in town, rather than in the countryside, and, while they are by no means rich, they are wealthier than most of the people in the county. In addition, Atticus works as a lawyer, while his brother is a doctor. They have more education and refinement than other people in the county.

The next highest social tier is composed of people like the Cunninghams. They are white farmers in the countryside and pay Atticus for his services in goods rather than money. They are of a lower social status than the Finches because they are farmers and live out of town, and they are also relatively poor. The next lowest caste are the poorest whites, such as the Ewells, who must accept relief and who can't feed or clothe themselves. However, all the white social classes are higher than the African Americans who, because of racism, are regarded as being at the lowest rung of the social ladder and who must live in a segregated part of town and attend their own church. Men like Tom Robinson can't hope to ascend the social hierarchy or to be treated fairly in a court of law because of their race.

vishal12 | Student

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vishal12 | Student

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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