What are three good examples of the theme of "prejudice" in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee explores the theme of prejudice in various ways throughout her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee depicts how the citizens of Maycomb, Alabama are prejudiced towards African Americans, lower class individuals, different religious groups, and foreign cultures. One of the most notable scenes that portrays the theme of prejudice takes place in Chapter 11 when Jem and Scout are subjected to Mrs. Dubose's racial slurs. Mrs. Dubose is Maycomb's most notorious racist, and she says, "Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" as the Finch children walk past her yard (Lee 65). Her comment not only depicts her prejudice toward African Americans but also her negative feelings about white people who help them out. She hates the fact that Atticus is defending Tom Robinson and criticizes him in front of his children.

In Chapter 23, Aunt Alexandra displays her prejudiced feelings toward lower-class families by refusing to allow Scout to play with Walter Cunningham Jr. When Scout asks why she isn't allowed to play with Walter, Alexandra tells her, "Because—he—is—trash, that’s why you can’t play with him. I’ll not have you around him, picking up his habits and learning Lord-knows-what" (Lee 137). Alexandra views the Cunningham family with contempt because they are lower-class farmers. Alexandra is cognizant of Maycomb's caste system and does not believe that upper-class families should be associating with the lower-class members of society.

Another scene which portrays the theme of prejudice can be found in Chapter 24, when Aunt Alexandra hosts her missionary circle at the Finch residence. Mrs. Grace Merriweather displays her prejudiced feelings toward foreign cultures by commenting on the Mrunas tribe in Africa. She tells Scout, "you are a fortunate girl. You live in a Christian home with Christian folks in a Christian town. Out there in J. Grimes Everett’s land there’s nothing but sin and squalor" (Lee 141). Mrs. Merriweather displays her ignorance and bias toward African cultures who do not practice Christianity.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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