A major theme in the work is the struggle for equality. Racism and the fight for equal rights has been a constant theme in literature, and is especially present in literature of marginalized writers (women, ethnic minorities) emerging during the Harlem Renaissance (1920's), the Black Arts Movement, the Civil Rights era, and beyond.
The main "lesson" taught by the work is that racism is a flawed concept. One example of this (though certainly not the only example in the book) can be found in the development of the character of Lily. Lily is challenged by racism throughout the piece, but she ultimately moves past her own mistaken perceptions to accept that difference is not always a negative thing. She starts the novel believing that all black people are uneducated, but when that idea is challenged when she meets and comes to know Boatwright she must revise that opinion. That is her "lesson learned" in the work.
This work focuses on racism. You may have had trouble understanding its theme or lesson because the author turns racial stereotypes topsy turvy and, in so doing, exposes the irrational nature of racism. Racial stereotypes are both uncovered and challenged in this novel. Look at the assumptions Lily makes about blacks, and look at how these assumptions are transformed based on the other characters she encounters in the novel. Ask yourself whether or not the characters represent racial stereotypes. Some do, some do not. And where do these stereotypes come from? From ourselves, from our society, from our families............hope this helps.
The first theme is racism. We initially get a view of how badly the Rosaleen Daiseis treated when she and Lily go to town. When they try to go in a store when on the run Rosaleen has to stay outside. Lily stays with the Boatrights and develops a crush on a black boy, Zachary Taylor, which is not sanctioned by whites. Even Lily has her own ideas of what black people are like. She thinks that they are uneducated people. When she meets the Boatwrights she learns that there are black people with educations who have their own business. Her stereotype image has changed.
The next theme is the need to belong. Lily's mother died when she was young. She accidentally shot her when her mother was preparing to leave her father. She has felt his rejection ever since. When she goes to the Boatwrights she begins to feel like she has found a place where she belongs. They are kind and welcoming with the exception of June, who later changes.
Acceptance of self and others