Where and how can you see the effects of the Great Depression in the play/book To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've always found it interesting that money is very rarely mentioned in To Kill a Mockingbird. There is little talk of buying things at all. One of the only objects that Scout purchases during the entire book is the baton that Jem later uses to destroy Mrs. Dubose's camellias. The kids apparently have no bikes, nor are many toys mentioned. The air rifles they have were a Christmas gift from Uncle Jack. The Finches never eat out, never go shopping, and never even speak of special wants. Atticus rarely drives his car, and apparently many of the neighbors have no automobiles at all. The Depression has apparently taught the children that there is no money available for such frills. Very few of the neighbors speak of such extravagances, either. Dill is one of the few characters who talks of such things, and it is clear that his parents spend money on him to as a response to their constant absences. The Cunninghams and Ewells are among the hardest hit of the white families, and it is clear that all of Maycomb's black population is cash poor. Nevertheless, Scout speaks of such matters only rarely in TKAM

teacher2011 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Absolutlely, the Cunninghams and Ewells represent families living poorly. The difference of course is that the Cunninghams maintain dignity and respect despite their poor living conditions. The Ewells do not. Bob Ewell is happy receiving government checks and then spending it all on alcohol. The community allows the Ewells to hunt out of season just so the children living in the house can eat.


The Cunninghams, in an attempt to maintain dignity, repay Atticus for legal services by giving the Finches stovewood and produce from the Cunningham farm.


One of my favorite moments is early in the novel when Scout asks Atticus if their family, referring to the Finches, is poor and Atticus, to paraphrase, replies that indeed, they are; however, the crash hurt the farmers the most.


mkcapen1 | Student

Evidence of the great depression abounds in the book To Kill a Mockingbird.  For example Bob Ewell does not mind getting financial help but he will not take a position working under a program that was sponsored by FDR. 

The Cunningham children as well as the Ewell's are very poor only Mr. Cunningham will not take food rations or help. 

"The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit them hardest."(23)

The book talks about Mr. Cunningham being able to get a WPA job, but he doesn't want to let his land go to pot.  He also does not want to feel like he ahd sold his vote. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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