What are the main themes in Part One of To Kill a Mockingbird?Please include quotes and explanation. Thank you. :)

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main plot of Part One of To Kill a Mockingbird concerns the children's attempts to get a peek at Boo Radley. The main themes of tolerance and prejudice are found in examples throughout this section of the novel. Jem and Scout initially believe all of the gossip that surrounds Boo, prejudicial mistruths which have forced Boo into the reclusiveness of his own house. They are warned by Atticus to give him his privacy, but they finally come to see that Boo is a kindly man who only wants be their friend. Atticus gives Scout a good lesson on tolerance when he tells her to give Miss Caroline a second chance.

"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."

As the trial approaches, Jem and Scout both begin to experience the racial prejudice that envelopes most of the town. Scout refrains from fighting Cecil Jacobs when he claims Atticus "defended niggers," and Atticus warns her not to use the "N" word since it is "common." But she can't hold back when her cousin Francis calls her a "nigger-lover."

This time, I split my knuckle to the bone on his front teeth.

The children get another lesson in racial prejudice from the angry, old Mrs. Dubose, but Jem learns to be tolerant toward her when Atticus forces him to read to her each day as punishment for destroying her prize camellias. The theme of courage also arises concerning Mrs. Dubose: Atticus's punishment is meant to show Jem the difference between the old lady's real courage and the supposed bravery shown when a man wields a gun (as seen by Atticus when he kills the mad dog in Chapter 10).

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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