What are the social problems in the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" and what is the relevance of the said problems in  20th century America?explain the following social problems in the...

What are the social problems in the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" and what is the relevance of the said problems in  20th century America?

explain the following social problems in the book and their relevance in the 20th century america?



3.racial segregation



5.crime and violence

6.child abuse

7.mental illness

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This novel deals with social problems that affected the United States in the time the book takes place (in the 1930s) and today. For example, the trial of Tom Robinson and the clearly false accusation that he raped Mayella Ewell relates to many of the issues in the question, including injustice, racial segregation, racial discrimination, and crime and violence. Tom, a black man, is a target because of his race in the segregated South, and the guilty verdict he receives (in spite of evidence that should exonerate him) is a testament to the racial discrimination that makes the criminal justice system unfair. Today, defendants of color still often receive stiffer sentences for the same crimes that white people commit, and the criminal justice system is not always fair to people who are of color. 

The issues of poverty, child abuse, and mental illness relate to Mayella and her father, Bob Ewell, who has abused his daughter and attributed that abuse to Tom. Mayella and her siblings are raised in a situation of dire poverty, and it can be inferred that her father is a mentally ill person, who has abused and neglected his children. Their situation makes Bob Ewell particularly willing to look for a target—in his case, Tom Robinson—to cast blame upon for his misdeeds. These issues are still prevalent in the United States, though mental illness and child abuse are not only problems of the poor but are problems at all levels of society. Poverty, however, makes it difficult for people to receive help dealing with mental illness or child abuse. 

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't know if there is enough space to address all 7 problems, but I will try to address some.  Poverty is seen in the book in the lives of some characters: the Cunninghams and the Ewells, for instance. Injustice is seen in examples in many places and to various degrees in the story.  The conviction of Tom is injustice at its highest, but the treatment of blacks in general is also an injustice.  A minor example is the way Scout's teacher chastises her for being able to read.  There were very clear lines of racial segregation in the book, and in society in the 1930's society of southern Alabama.  Blacks and whites did not intermingle socially nor geographically.  Discrimination is one of the major themes of the book.  Tom is discriminated against: he's convicted simply because he is black despite the overwhelming evidence of his innocense.  The jury is all men because women were discriminated against.  Crime and violence is seen in the abuse of Mayella which was both criminal and violent.  The vigilante group's attempt to lynch Tom is criminal and violent.  Bob Ewell's attack on Scout and Jem is another major example.  Child abuse is primarily shown in how Boo Radley was treated by his father. The way his father shut him away was nothing but abuse.  Bob Ewell's neglect of his children was abuse, too.  Mental illness is mostly seen in the character of Boo Radley due to his father's treatment of him.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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