What is the main message of the book To Kill a Mockingbird?

The main message of To Kill a Mockingbird is that one should judge people on their actions, not their appearance. The town of Maycomb is rife with prejudice against superficial differences such as race and class. In criticizing this prejudice, Harper Lee wants the reader to understand that there's a better way of evaluating people.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To Kill a Mockingbird is full of many very important messages. But if we had to choose only one, it would be the importance of judging people based on their actions rather than their appearance.

Sadly, this important moral lesson is lost on the vast majority of Maycomb's residents. Most...

Check Out
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

To Kill a Mockingbird is full of many very important messages. But if we had to choose only one, it would be the importance of judging people based on their actions rather than their appearance.

Sadly, this important moral lesson is lost on the vast majority of Maycomb's residents. Most of them are deeply mired in one form of prejudice or another, whether it's racial prejudice against African Americans or class prejudice against those deemed to be “white trash” or from the wrong side of the tracks. For the most part, the people in this neck of the woods are shallow and are quick to judge others on the basis of superficial characteristics.

What's even worse is that hardly anyone in Maycomb demonstrates any willingness to change their prejudiced outlooks, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Take the example of Tom Robinson. Because he's a Black man accused of raping a white woman, virtually everyone in town automatically assumes that he's guilty. But even when the facts come out in court, even when it's patently obvious that he's completely innocent of all charges, the jury votes to convict him.

The citizens of Maycomb—the white citizens, at any rate—are not prepared to accept the possibility that Tom might be innocent. All they see is a Black man, with all the negative connotations they've come to associate with that particular fact. This shows the corrosive effects of prejudice, and how it can lead to the perpetration of great injustice and evil in society. For the reader, this sad reality hammers home the message of looking past appearances and prejudices to judge people based on who they actually are and what they actually do.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on