To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What does Scout mean by: "there's only one kind of folks, folks" in To Kill a Mockingbird? What does this statement show?

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write9,049 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

In chapter 23, Aunt Alexandra offends Scout by calling her friend, Walter Cunningham Jr., a piece of trash. Aunt Alexandra is prejudiced against lower-class white families and believes that Scout is too good to be playing with Walter. Fortunately, Jem intervenes and walks Scout to his room, where they have a conversation about what makes people different. Jem initially tells Scout that he's got it all figured out and believes that there are four types of people in the world. Jem indirectly explains Maycomb's caste system by saying,

"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)

When Jem attempts to explain to Scout that education is what separates fine folks from lower-class citizens, Scout argues that his logic depends more on a person's opportunity than it does the individual. Scout then says,

"Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks." (231)

Scout's response illustrates her innocence and perspective. Scout realizes that social factors and opportunities play an important role in one's social class, but do not represent an individual's true character. Scout believes that each person is born equal, regardless of race or class. Her perspective and beliefs reflect her father's tolerant disposition, which he has successfully passed down to his daughter. 

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

clairewait eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write2,328 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Science

This quote shows Scout's age, inexperience, and innocence.

We see this in Jem's response to her:

That's what I thought too... when I was your age.  If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other?  If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?  -Jem Finch, ch. 23

To me this quote shows this childhood ideal is still an ideal, but eventually is killed by reality.  Harper Lee is making a very profound statement on the world - and speaking a very profound message.  This message is, "Why can't we all just get along?"  If these kids get it, why can't the adults?

But isn't that the sad reality?  Kids do get it - the idea that it doesn't matter what we look like nor how much money we make, or even how educated we are - we can find something in common and love each other - and adults, too often, don't.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

To me, this is a statement that shows one of the main themes of the book.  It is meant to tell us that all people are the same -- that there are not (or should not be) black people and white people, rich people and poor people.  There should only be people.

This is, as I say, one of the major themes of the book.  Scout and Jem are encouraged to think of Boo Radley as a person, not a monster.  Calpurnia makes sure that Scout does not treat Walter Cunningham like he is lower than the Finches.  Atticus tells the kids they need to respect black people and even people like Mrs. Dubose.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial