To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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Examples Of Prejudice In To Kill A Mockingbird

What are examples of prejudices, at least three, in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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The most rampant kind of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird is racial prejudice. This is demonstrated during Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle, in which the well-to-do white women praise missionary work for "rescuing" Africans from their "poor" lives, as well as during Tom Robinson's trial. Despite overwhelming evidence of Tom's innocence, the jury still convicts Tom of raping Mayella Ewell, since he is a black man. Another example of prejudice that arises in the novel is socioeconomic prejudice, which Aunt Alexandra also harbors and which causes the Ewell family, for example, to be looked down upon in Maycomb society.

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In chapter 24, Aunt Alexandra is holding a meeting of her missionary circle. Although the assembled ladies discuss the church's missionary work in Africa, they still voice prejudiced remarks about African Americans. Grace Merriweather, for example, implies that white missionaries are somehow doing those poor benighted savages out in Africa a favor:

"Oh child, those poor Mrunas," she said, and was off. Few other questions would be necessary. 

Mrs. Merriweather's large brown eyes always filled with tears when she considered the oppressed. "Living in that jungle with nobody but J. Grimes Everett," she said. "Not a white person'll go near 'em but that saintly J. Grimes Everett." (Chapter 24. pp.26-28)

It's ok to help people out in Africa (something for which they should be eternally grateful to the saintly J. Grimes Everett), but their ancestors in Maycomb are just "darkies" who can never be on equal terms with white folk.

Prejudice in To Kill A Mockingbird isn't simply racial; it's also based on class. Aunt Alexandra has a particular bee in her bonnet about "good breeding." She's of the firm opinion that negative character traits are passed down through families over generations. But Scout isn't too impressed:

Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was. (Chapter 13. p.28)

But, it's racial prejudice that is the main theme of the story. This affects people in different ways:

Lula stopped, but she said, "You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here—they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church, ain't it, Miss Cal?" 

. . . When I looked down the pathway again, Lula was gone. In her place was a solid mass of colored people. 

One of them stepped from the crowd. It was Zeebo, the garbage collector. "Mister Jem," he said, "we're mighty glad to have you all here. Don't pay no 'tention to Lula, she's contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her. She's a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an' haughty ways—we're mighty glad to have you all." (Chapter 12. pp.48-52)

Segregation is so deeply entrenched in the Old South that different races even worship at different churches. What's also being hinted at here is that the Christian message, which is universal, is being repressed by prevailing the racial prejudices that reinforce separation and particularity.


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In chapter 14 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Aunt Alexandra proves she is prejudiced against Calpurnia. Aunt Alexandra tells Scout that she cannot attend church with Calpurnia anymore. Aunt Alexandra is indeed prejudiced. She tries to get Atticus to get rid of Calpurnia. Aunt Alexandra does not approve of the close relationship Atticus and his children have with Calpurnia.

In chapter 15, prejudices are evident when a group of men come to the jail to lynch Tom Robinson. Atticus blocks the doorway to the jail. The men order Atticus to get out of the way. Scout and Jem arrive at the jailhouse. Scout speaks to Mr. Cunningham, one of the men who desires to lynch Tom Robinson. She carries on a conversation as if he has done nothing wrong. Her innocence causes Mr. Cunningham to urge his men to leave the premises. Had it not been for Scout, Tom Robinson may have been lynched before he received a fair trial. 


In chapter 18, Tom Robinson is on trial for beating and raping Mayella. Atticus proves that Tom Robinson could not have attacked Mayella because his left arm is crippled. Tom Robinson could not have been the one who beat Mayella on the right side of her face which is where her bruises were. Mayella was beaten by a left handed attacker. Tom Robinson's left arm had been crippled since he was a boy. Also, Mayella had bruises around her neck. Mayella's attacker would have had to have good use of both his arms and hands in order to choke her. Even though Atticus proves that Tom Robinson could not have been Mayella's attacker, the prejudiced jury still found Tom Robinson guilty of a crime he did not commit.          

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