What are some ways Lee talks about race and class in 1930s Alabama in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

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katemschultz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The entire novel is about race and class. But here are some specific examples:

The trial of Tom Robinson, especially Atticus's closing speech, gives good examples of Lee's views that blacks are the same as whites, and in some ways, better than whites. It's no coincidence that Lee physically places the black above the whites in the courtroom--she's showing the blacks (as well as Jem, Scout and Dill) are above the hypocrisy.

Lee also shows that most people are blind to their own discrimination. Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle is willing to help Africans (the Mrunas) across the world, but can't lift a finger to help the blacks in their own community. Miss Gates can identify persecution in Hilter's actions, but not her own comment about the blacks after the trial.

Atticus also discusses racism as a social code rather than a law. He teaches Jem and Scout to respect everyone, regardless of color (Tom, Calpurnia), class (Walter Cunningham), where they come from (Miss Caroline), attitude (Mrs. Dubose), gender (Miss Maudie), gossip (Boo Radley) and actions (Cecil Jacobs and Francis Hancock).

Aunt Alexandra is Lee's voice for class. Aunt Alexandra wants Jem and Scout to live up to the Finch name and is appalled when Scout wants to invite Walter Cunningham over for lunch--the Finches shouldn't associate with a lower family like the Cunninghams. Scout states Lee's views on class and discrimination very simply: "There's just one kind of folks: folks."

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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