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GENDER. Author Harper Lee does not treat her women characters well in To Kill a Mockingbird. Many are quirky and downright peculiar. Miss Stephanie is a terrible gossip; Aunt Alexandra is obsessed with her heredity; Aunt Rachel is a closet alcoholic; Scout's teachers border on incompetent; Mrs. Dubose is a drug-addicted racist. Most of the women are either single or have dysfunctional relationships with their husbands. As for boundaries, Scout learns from Atticus that women are not allowed to serve as jurors. Few of the women are expected to hold down jobs. Scout and Dill are rarely apart, but she is not allowed to join Jem and Dill when the two go swimming at Barker's Eddy, since they skinnydip and don't want Scout around. Scout prefers the company of men rather than the supposed ladies of the Missionary Circle.
I was more at home in my father's world... Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men... But I liked them... there was something about them that I instinctively liked... they weren't--
RACE. Set in the Deep South of the 1930s, most of Maycomb's white residents are intolerant of their black townspeople. Mayella crosses the line when she tries to seduce Tom Robinson; Tom foolishly enters a white man's house--not an accepted practice for most people of the time period, and he makes the mistake of admitting to feeling sorry for Mayella. Dolphus Raymond has a black mistress and prefers the company of Negroes.
I had a feeling I shouldn't be here listening to this sinful man who had mixed children and didn't care who knew it...
Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to her all-black church, which offends at least one member of the congregation, and Jem and Scout later sit in the all-black section at the trial.
PHYSICAL. The crippled Tom Robinson is convicted of raping and beating Mayella Ewell--an act he is physically incapable of doing.
If he had been whole, he would have been a fine specimen of a man.
Atticus and the three children manage to overcome two carloads of grown men who come to lynch Tom. Bob Ewell has no problem with attacking his daughter--or Jem and Scout. Scout loves to fight boys, and she easily wins her battles with Walter Cunningham Jr. and her Cousin Francis. There are other physical boundaries evident in the story, particularly along segregated racial lines. Maycomb's Negroes all live in the Quarters, "outside the southern town limits." Other undesirables are also separated: The Cunninghams live in Old Sarum, Dolphus Raymond lives down by the river, and Bob Ewell lives adjacent to the dump.
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