What are some issues and flaws pointed out in the novel about the American Democracy at a key time in American history? The key time phrase is the 1920s, which To Kill a Mockingbird is set.

Expert Answers

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

The novel presents each of these examples of problems under American democracy in the 1930s:

  • Women are not allowed to sit on juries.
  • Minorities are not allowed to sit on juries.
  • The justice system is determined, in part, by institutional biases regarding race.
  • Segregation is in force, if not actively enforced. 
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To Kill a Mockingbird is actually set in the 1930s, but racism remains the biggest flaw practiced by the citizens of Maycomb. It is not restricted to the white population, however; a member of the Negro church, Lula, is quite upset when Calpurnia brings Jem and Scout to the all-black church. Public scrutiny about mental instability is another issue, as is the fact that women's rights were still ignored in many Southern states.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Racism is, of course, the obvious issue.  However, another major issue is that of class or economic status.  America is supposed to be a land in which all people are treated equally.  However, it is very clear that the Ewells are not treated as equal to all the other white people in Maycomb.  By portraying the society in this way, Lee seems to be pointing out a flaw in the American system where the rich are more powerful and more respected than the poor.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Some of the issues of the 1920s pointed out in To Kill a Mockingbird center around the themes of racism and inequality. Jim Crow laws were in full swing during this time period. These laws allowed "separate but equal" rights for black and white citizens; however, the equality was quite lacking. We see the differences in the treatment of black and white citizens in the novel. A black man accused by a white woman had very little options. Even his lawyer, Atticus Fitch, had his own share of trouble for defending a black man. Another example of inequality during the 1920s revolves around monetary concerns. We see the main character, Scout, and her family interacting with people of lesser economic standing. Atticus, Scout's father, often accepts food or goods in exchange for his legal services because his clients have no money to pay him with. We see Scout's reaction to a little boy at school who lives in a house where there isn't always enough to eat. These very real issues shaped, not only the novel, but 1920s America as well.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial