Why is the book To Kill A Mockingbird full of physical handicaps, and what are they?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Tom Robinson's crippled left arm is the only obvious physical handicap among the novel's characters, many of the other characters suffer from other disabilities. The mysterious Boo Radley suffers from unknown mental and social maladies; Mrs. Dubose is a drug addict; poor Walter Cunningham is hampered by near malnutrition; Dill is cast off by his parents each summer; Bob Ewell is an alcoholic and the rest of his family is apparently illiterate; Atticus' bachelor brother Jack has absolutely no understanding of children; and even the near-perfect man Atticus Finch has bad eyesight.

The more obvious social handicaps in the novel concern the hateful, white trash Ewell family; the racist views of most of the Maycomb townspeople toward their black neighbors; and the lower class dilemma facing each and every black citizen because of their skin color.


charcunning eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Robinson is the only character that is technically and officially physically handicapped. However, it would be easy to argue that the black characters in the book are handicapped due to their race.

Tom Robinson has an arm that is one foot shorter than the other as a result of cotton gin accident in his youth. This handicap acutally turns out to be the one solid piece of evidence that "proves" that he is innocent of raping Mayella Ewell.

But Tom's handicap runs much deeper than merely his arm--he is a black man accused of raping a white woman. His ancestry then becomes his handicap--there are many things that he will never achieve because he is black.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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