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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What are three examples of the need for change/resistance to change in To Kill a Mockingbird's Maycomb County?

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Atticus Finch makes the decision to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, against charges of rape. The backlash he and his family face as a result of his choice highlights a need for a change in society. Maycomb County is a racist community, and despite a strong case presented by Atticus, Tom is found guilty. Atticus says of racism, "It’s just as much Maycomb County as missionary teas."

A second need for social change becomes apparent through the experiences of Scout. Women are expected to dress and behave in certain ways. Scout and Jem discover after Tom's trial that women are not allowed to serve on juries. Scout is raised by a single father and is more of a tomboy than a "proper" young lady. Aunt Alexandra sees it as her mission to teach Scout to dress and behave as she feels a young lady should. Scout recalls being "more at home in my father’s world," as she feels men are easier to understand and less judgmental. Scout feels that she should be allowed to dress and behave in a way that suits her, although her current community disagrees.

Finally, a third need for change concerns education. Upon discovering that Scout can read, Miss Caroline tells Scout that she will try to "undo the damage" that Atticus has done in teaching her to read. Instead of meeting Scout's needs academically and moving her forward, her teacher sees Scout's abilities as a negative.

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Here are three examples of things that need changing in Maycomb:

  • Segregation and Jim Crow Laws.  Maycomb is not alone with its self-imposed separation and predjudicial treatment of the races, and it will be many years before a lasting change will come.
  • Jury Selection.  Maycomb has several problems with the way its juries are selected. Rural residents dominate each jury since local townspeople and businessmen refuse to serve, blaming possible conflicts between friends and financial obligations. Additionally, women are not yet legally allowed to serve, reducing the possible jury pool by one-half.
  • Education Reform.  The inadequacy of Scout's teachers makes it obvious that more competent instructors are required in order to help bring the other children up to Scout's standards.

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