What is one example of tone used in the novel?
The tone of the story shows the writer's perspective. The writer shows a disapproving tone toward the hypocrisy in Maycomb. This is evident during the missionary circle tea. Mrs. Grace Merriweather is deeply concerned about the well-being of the Mruna people. She praises J. Grimes Everett, the missionary who works with the Mrunas. In the same conversation, she criticizes the African Americans in Maycomb:
"...the cooks and field hands are just dissatisfied, but they're settling down now—they grumbled all next day after that trial" (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 24).
Mrs. Merriweather has a hired girl named Sophy. She says that she would fire Sophy without hesitation if she complained for days. Mrs. Merriweather knows Sophy needs the money she earns to survive. She seems more concerned about the Mruna people than about those in her own community.
Maycomb is full of people who treat African Americans as lesser beings. They are treated like second class citizens. Mrs. Merriweather shares her thoughts on African Americans at the missionary circle meeting:
"Hypocrites, Mrs. Perkins, born hypocrites," Mrs. Merriweather was saying. "At least we don't have that sin on our shoulders down here. People up there set 'em free, but you don't see 'em settin' at the table with 'em. At least we don’t have the deceit to say to 'em yes you're as good as we are but stay away from us. Down here we just say you live your way and we'll live ours."
Mrs. Merriweather believes that southerners are being honest by segregating themselves from African Americans. She points out hypocrisy in others without seeing it in herself.
Lee's tone towards the educational system is negative and critical. Consider this quote:
"The Dewey Decimal System consisted, in part, of Miss Caroline waving cards at us on which were printed "the," "cat," "rat," "man," and "you." No commend seemed to be expected of us, and the class received these impressionistic revelations in silence. I was bored, so I began a letter to Dill. Miss Caroline caught me writing and told me to tell my father to stop teaching no."
That Scout, the narrator, has misunderstood the Dewey Decimal System and that she presents Miss Caroline as naive and incompetent demonstrates Lee's criticism.
Tone is the attitude of the writer toward her subject matter, characters, and sometimes toward her readers. Because the narrator is an adult talking about her younger self, the tone is sometimes ironic in that there is a disparity between what the younger and older self know. We see this, for example, in the opening sentence of chapter 10: "Atticus was feeble: he was nearly fifty." Even the next sentences begin to qualify this, but the narrator is smiling to herself as she says these words because she knows he was not feeble, but the child Scout does not: to a child of eight, 50 is feeble.