What are some examples of prejudice stemming from lack of understanding in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Boo Radley and Dolphus Raymond are just two of the characters who draw unjust prejudice from the townspeople of Maycomb in TKAM. Nearly the entire town, including Boo's own parents, give up on him following his run-in with the law as a teenager. Boo's father restricts his son to a long-term form of house arrest, turning Arthur Jr. into a recluse and, apparently, a young man with increased mental instability. In our modern world, such a man would be pitied and subject to medical treatment which might improve his state of mind; but in Maycomb, Arthur Jr. became "Boo," the "malevolent phantom" who was accused of "Any small stealthy crimes committed in Maycomb." At the end of the story, Boo becomes a hero, saving Jem and Scout from the murderous hands of Bob Ewell. But Boo's actions are covered up for his own sake, since the people of the town would

"... be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes... draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight..."  (Chapter 30)

Dolphus Raymond, a white man and one of the wealthiest in town, prefers to spend his time with Negroes. He also likes to weave around town with a bottle hidden inside a paper sack; people assume it is whiskey. Because of these idiosyncracies, Dolphus is believed to be mentally unstable by most of the townspeople. Dolphus's love of the "colored folks" is real, but his bottle of whiskey is not. It is Coca-Cola that he sips from a straw, and his weaving is deliberate, meant to allow people to "latch onto a reason" for "the way he lives the way he does."

"... they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that's the way I want to life."  (Chapter 20)

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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