Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What does Harper Lee think about each of the following (provide specific examples from the text to support your conclusion). Education/literacy law and order poverty/wealth prejudice/hypocrisy neighbors friendship family What are the important attributes or characteristics of each? Are these positive or negative? Which characteristics/scenes epitomize or best illustrate her beliefs?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

EDUCATION / LITERACY.  Miss Lee portrays Scout's two teachers, Miss Caroline and Miss Gates, in a mostly negative light. Miss Caroline has been taught all of the new educational theories, and she considers herself far superior to the children around her; however, it is she that does most of the learning on Scout's first day. Miss Gates preaches tolerance in her classroom, but she does not exhibit it herself. Atticus never actually attends school as a youngster, yet he is the most intelligent and admired man in Maycomb. Scout's learning at home puts her far ahead of the other first graders, but Miss Caroline considers her knowledge useless and improper.

LAW AND ORDER.  Although Sheriff Tate is one of the most admired characters in the novel, he bends the law in the end when he falsely declares Bob Ewell's death a self-inflicted wound. The jury is presented as a group whose final verdict in the Tom Robinson trial is already pre-destined.

POVERTY / WEALTH.  There is little wealth in Maycomb during the 1930s, but Dolphus Raymond--the town's white outcast--and the Radleys--including the mysterious Boo--are among the most prosperous. It is interesting that two such unusual families should be among the wealthiest in the town.

PREJUDICE / HYPOCRISY.  African-Americans are treated harshly by the majority of the townspeople. The guilty verdict against Tom is the most obvious example.

NEIGHBORS.  They are presented as good (Miss Maudie), bad (Mrs. Dubose) and quirky (Miss Stephanie, the Radleys, Mr. Avery).

FRIENDSHIP.  Friendship is a rare commodity in TKAM. Oddly, Scout and Jem seem to have few friends. Their only close friend (aside from Miss Maudie) is Dill, who only visits during the summers. The children's desire to make Boo their friend shows their desire for more companionship. Atticus seems to have no close friends (again, aside from his old friend, Maudie).

FAMILY.  Lee explores many different relationships, but most of the families are disjointed. Atticus heads a single-parent household with Calpurnia serving as surrogate mother. Aunt Alexandra is immensely pround of her family history, while Atticus has a much more realistic view. Scout hates her young cousin, Francis, and cares little for Alexandra or her husband. She does like her Uncle Jack, who visits only once a year. The Radleys are an odd lot that has mistreated Boo for years. Dill's family dumps him off on his Aunt Rachel each summer. The Ewells are a disgrace. The Cunninghams are a large group who stay to themselves outside Maycomb.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team