Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What is the theme of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the best way to determine the theme is to look at the things that Atticus says to his children. Atticus is presented as the wisest, most admirable character in the story, so it follows that his moral compass will point the reader toward the book’s central meaning. With that said, keep in mind that there are many ways to state a theme, and sometimes it is more a matter of opinion than anything else. Also, a story can certainly have more than one theme.

In chapter three, the narrator Scout has had a disappointing first day of school. When she gets home, she tells her father Atticus that she has decided not to go to school anymore; she’ll just stay home and learn from Atticus like she has been doing for the first six years of her life. Scout tells Atticus that the new teacher, Miss Caroline, has insisted that Scout no longer read with her father. This is something Scout cannot abide by. Atticus, the always patient and empathetic listener and observer responds with the lines that could well be considered the story’s theme:

"If you can learn a simple trick Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.“

This quotation reveals an attitude that Atticus’s actions support throughout the story. As Scout and Jem grow older, they begin to understand what he means, and this affects how they live their lives. In fact, we can find evidence of this at the very end of the book, on the last page in fact. Jem and Scout have just been rescued from the murderous Bob Ewell by Boo Radley, the neighbor that they have failed to understand throughout the story. Scout’s observation about Boo reveals her character’s growth:

"Atticus, when they finally saw him . . . he was real nice."

Scout is now looking at things from Boo’s point of view, making an effort to see him for who he is and not as the monster that the children made him out to be.

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The primary theme of Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbirdconcerns the importance of protecting innocent, vulnerable people. Throughout the story, Atticus attempts to teach his children important life lessons in the hope that they will mature into compassionate, tolerant individuals with integrity. One of the most important life lessons Atticus teaches his children takes place towards the beginning of chapter ten, when he tells them,

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. (Lee, 93)

Miss Maudie elaborates on Atticus's comment by telling the children that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because they are harmless, benevolent beings, which bring joy to the world. Mockingbirds are...

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also important symbols in the story and represent any defenseless, compassionate character. Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are two notable symbolic mockingbirds, who rely on the protection of others to survive. Tom Robinson is portrayed as a selfless man, who goes out of his way to help Mayella and ends up getting arrested, while Boo Radley is simply a reclusive, kind man, who gives the Finch children gifts. Bothcharacters are victims of prejudice and considered powerless individuals.

Atticus proceeds to teach his children the importance of protecting innocent beings by acting as a positive role model and defending Tom Robinson in front of a racist jury. Following Tom's wrongful conviction, Scout and Jem lose their childhood innocence and develop into tolerant, sympathetic children. After Bob's vicious attack, Sheriff Tate protects Boo from the public's limelight by refusing to publicize his heroics. When Atticus asks Scout if she understands Sheriff Tate's reasoning, she metaphorically applies his earlier lesson by saying,

Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it? (Lee, 280)

Scout's comment highlights her maturation and moral development. Overall, Harper Lee explores the theme regarding the importance of protecting innocent, defenseless beings throughout her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

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The dominant theme in this novel is one of justice, fairness, and the lack thereof in the 1930s south. During this period, segregation and discrimination were rampant, and this novel does not shy away from that fact. What's more, the actions of the characters within this story all have something to do with the idea of equality -- whether it's Atticus's representation of Tom Robinson, Jem's services for Mrs. Dubose, or one of many other scenes in the book, the ideas of fairness are heavily accentuated throughout the plot.

As previously mentioned, this book has a number of different themes. I would recommend that you check services like Sparknotes or Cliffnotes for expanded ideas about this fact. 

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One of the most powerful themes in the novel is the importance of the experience of learning, the experience of witness, and the realization that independent thinking sometimes requires tremendous courage. Jem and Scout learn that it was wrong to fear Boo Radley. Atticus is witness to the injustice Tom Robinson endures yet does not yeild his beliefs to those who are blinded by hatred and racism. Atticus portrays undeniable courage when he faces the Robinson family...and from the back seat of a car Atticus' child witnesses integrity, descency, and humility. Powerful themes,powerful life lessons.

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As with any literary work with merit, this novel has more than one theme.  The main theme is racism and prejudice in our country.  This is evident with the entire book centering on the trial of a good man, Tom Robinson, who happens to be black and who also is tried and convicted for a crime he never committed.  Had he been a white man, he most certainly would never have been brought to trial in the first place, much less convicted. It is also a novel about social status and economic woes.  There are the whites in the community and the blacks in the community of this novel.  Mayella Ewell is the alleged victim of Tom Robinson's advances.  She is white, but her family is among the lowest on the white totem pole...they live near the black community, but they are considered by everyone in the community to be "white trash".  This is mostly (I determine) because it is supposed that Mayella has taken the place of her dead mother in every sense...even with her father's affections.  Of course, incest is rarely approved of in any situation.  However, they are white, and so therefore, they are situated a notch above the black community.  There is also the story of white Mr. Raymond who has a black mistress and children, and who pretends to be the town drunk so that everyone has an excuse to point to for his behavior.  The children discover on one afternoon that he really is only drinking cola. There are other themes...keep digging!

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There are so many themes in this wonderful book. But I would argue that the key theme is loss of innocence. To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, detailing Scout's transition to young adulthood. In her blissful innocence, Scout is initially unaware of the numerous evils that exist in Maycomb, not the least of which is widespread racial prejudice. Yet, as the story progresses, Scout becomes gradually more aware of her surroundings, realizing in due course just how scary a place the world can be.

As with most children, Scout is forever asking questions about the things that don't make sense to her. Fortunately, Atticus is on hand to provide wisdom and loving guidance to his daughter, helping her to understand the complexities of life. Thanks to Atticus, Scout comes to realize that life isn't all black and white; there are numerous shades of gray. And although Maycomb may not be some kind of Shangri-La, it's not simply a hothouse of racism and social snobbery either. There are good people in Maycomb; Scout knows this from her own experience with the likes of Miss Maudie, Calpurnia, and, eventually, Boo Radley. And thanks to these good people, Scout's loss of innocence results not in disillusionment and cynicism, but rather in a much more complete understanding of human nature, which acknowledges the co-existence and complex interaction of both the good and the bad.

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The theme of a literary work is defined by its central or dominating ideas. The ideas that seem to control the narrative of To Kill a Mockingbird stem from misjudgments made by main characters. For example, the errors of judgment made by Jem and Scout serve to develop the dominant themes of maturation and knowledge.

Throughout the narrative of Harper Lee's novel, the young Finches incorrectly assume that people possess traits that are unlikable or distasteful. However, after they come to know these people better, the children's perception changes. Among those for whom this situation is true is Scout's first-grade teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, who Scout assumes will appreciate her assistance. However, she does not understand that the teacher finds the informative Scout to be a threat to her control of the class. Scout and Jem misjudge Mrs. Dubose, assuming the older woman is merely mean and spiteful; they do not realize that she is addicted to morphine. They also make judgment errors about Aunt Alexandra, not realizing until the story's conclusion that Alexandra truly loves her brother. Then, too, Scout and Jem misjudge Boo Radley by believing at first that he is a malevolent spirit. 

In the end, after Arthur Radley saves the children from the malicious and vengeful Bob Ewell, Scout meets Arthur personally and later walks him home. Afterwards, when her father puts Scout to bed, she tells her father about a character from the book she has read, The Gray Ghost, remarking that the character was “real nice” when “they finally saw him.” Atticus, who thinks of the good, gentle, yet misunderstood recluse who has saved the lives of his children, replies, "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them." This is a response that underscores the themes of maturation and knowledge.

The novel also tackles themes of prejudice and racism. Though the story ends on an uplifting note, readers can't forget that Tom Robinson is dead because of prejudice and misunderstanding. Lee emphasizes the redemptive power of empathy even as she points to the dire consequences of undefeated institutionalized prejudice.

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Arguably the main theme in the book is social prejudice and its detrimental effects. The story explores all types of social prejudice, most dramatically in the form of racism with Tom Robinson's trial. However, racism is only one aspect of the issue. Prejudice is shown to be pervasive and wide-ranging, certainly in a cramped, conservative little town like Maycomb. Society in this town is rigidly divided along lines of race, class and gender. The oppression of blacks - segregated, impoverished, and regarded as fair game for abuse and accusations - is obvious. There are only a few enlightened individuals, like Atticus, Miss Maudie, and Heck Tate, that are able and willing to see past a person's skin colour.

Class prejudice is also rife in this community. Aunt Alexandra does not allow Scout and Jem to mix with people of a lower social class, like the Cunninghams, to Scout's mystification and indignation. Most despised of all though are so-called 'poor white trash' like the Ewells. Although Bob Ewell is certainly villainous, we can assume that his treatment by society at large has probably helped to shape him into the mean and vile person that he is. 

Gender is also a cause for prejudice. Women are seen to have sharply defined roles: they are expected to be good wives, mothers and housekeepers, to act and dress most genteelly, and little more. Those who refuse to be limited to such roles, like Miss Maudie, become the object of criticism - although Miss Maudie, at least, has a healthy disregard for what other people may think. She is more than happy to spend time in her garden rather than her house, and to wear overalls instead of dresses. Scout appears to be of a similar tomboyish inclination and rebels against her prim and proper aunt's efforts to mould her into a socially respectable model of femininity.

Finally, there is the kind of prejudice that exists against any one that who behaves differently from expected social norms in any way. This is true of Boo Radley. A shy and good-hearted man, he is misunderstood both by his own family as well as society at large, and so becomes a recluse, hiding away from the adult world altogether. He becomes the object of superstition, particularly for the children, but by the end his goodness is fully revealed to them and they see him for what he really is: one of the most decent, humane individuals in the entire town. They lose their former fear of him once they come to understand him. The book thus shows that prejudice can be overcome by employing understanding and empathy for others. This is the fundamental lesson that Atticus strives to teach his children. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird strongly incorporates the theme of prejudice versus acceptance and tolerance through Atticus Finch and the townspeople of Maycomb.  Harper Lee draws a sharp contrast between the noble and gentle character of Atticus whose views on humanity and race sharply differ from those of his fellow townspeople of Maycomb; due to a variety reasons such as tradition, ignorance, short-sightedness, but mostly plain old prejudice, the majority of Maycomb, like Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, simply label Atticus "a nigger lover" for his values and actions such as taking on the defense of Tom Robinson's case. 

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As with all stories and novels, there can be multiple themes playing out at one time, in one scene, or throughout the whole thing. Look at the assignment you have been given and ask yourself what the teacher expects you to do.  Is your teacher asking you to decide on one of the main themes and to write a two-page paper on it? If so, you will want to come up with a theme that you can show supporting textual evidence by quote and page number.

To help you with determining some themes that you will choose, here is a list:


Single parenting

The legal system and how it works in the South in the 1930s


Childhood's point of view

Standing for what is right when everyone disagrees with you.

Check out the link below for further ideas on themes for To Kill a Mockingbird. Good Luck!

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The main theme of To Kill a Mockingbird is innocence. We see this theme repeated over and over again. To start with, the title of the book is explained in the text. It is explained to Scout that no one should shoot a mockingbird because they are innocent and only want to please others. We see Scout relating this concept to Tom Robinson's trial and Atticus's defense of his client. We also see Scout start to realize this concept also applies to Boo Radley. Her own innocence puts a distance between her ideas and those of the towns people. It is because Scout is innocent herself that we are able to see the innocence of others through her eyes.
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If you look at this from the perspective of the title (as your question suggests) the main proof of the theme that it is a crime "to kill a mockingbird" lies in two story lines: Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Both can be considered "mockingbird" characters. They never harm anyone. In fact, just as the mockingbird gives to society in the form of its song, Tom and Boo also give to society. Tom offers Mayella friendship and assistance - something that she has never experienced before from her family. He is the exact opposite of her father. He is simple and kind, and it is his kindness that gets him in trouble. He is willing to come assist her, even though she is white. He likely senses a kindred spirit in her to a degree as they are both societal outcasts. He feels sorry for her and he helps her, but he is killed for his kindness. Boo gives to society by watching over the children, but he is repaid for his kindness by a town that does not understand him and, to some degree, fears him because he is different. In the end, it is Boo who saves the children. For this mockingbird, however, the story has a different ending. The sheriff will not seek to prosecute him for killing Bob Ewell, preferring to take the stance tat Bob fell on his own knife. In some small way, this provides balance - a sort of karma if you will - that does not make up for the fact that Tom is dead but does even the score in a sense.

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Here are the main themes from the novel To Kill a Mockingbird:


They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself.  The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.  ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 11, spoken by the character Atticus


It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.  ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 11

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Harper Lee's great Southern novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, deals with a number of important themes. Among them:

PREJUDICE.  There are many examples of prejudice--racial, gender, social and age among them--in the novel. Perhaps the single most important event is the trial of the Negro Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white women. Attorney Atticus Finch knows beforehand that he cannot possibly gain a jury acquittal due to the racial climate of 1935, in part because no white man will accept the word of a black man over the word of another white man. Tom's innocence is obvious--to everyone but the jury.

TOLERANCE.  Not unlike the prejudices above, the novel is filled with acts of intolerance. Boo Radley is routinely outcast by the entire community because of his unusual nocturnal habits and past troubles. Many of the women, particularly the single ones, are treated as peculiar. Children are held in less regard than in the 21st century, and the social classes are stereotyped. 

LOSSOFINNOCENCE.  The children's loss of innocence is another major theme, since Atticus opens the door for his children to observe the adult world in a manner unusual in small town America in the 1930s. Other characters, such as Boo, Tom and Dill, are also affected.

KNOWLEDGEVSIGNORANCE.  Intelligent teachers are made to look foolish, and uneducated jurors have the power of life and death in TKAM. Maycomb is a town that is still behind the times, and many of the people are proud of it. Their ignorance of worldly matters is obvious in several chapters.

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Wow.  Mockingbird is such a lovely tapestry of so many things that it feels wrong to try to analyze just one theme, but I will try by focusing on the title.  "To Kill a Mockingbird" refers to some advice Atticus once gave his children, and relates directly to a theme.  Atticus had told the kids to shoot all the bluejays they could hit, if they wanted to, because bluejays were a pest that destroyed people's property, but that it was "a sin to kill a mockingbird" because mockingbirds don't hurt anyone or tear anything up, they simply sing.  By the novel's end, we see how masterfully Harper Lee has woven the mockingbird metaphor into the story of Boo Radley.  Atticus, knowing that Boo killed Bob Ewell to save the children, has to make what for him is a very difficult decision--go along with Heck Tate's fictitious story that Ewell fell on his knife to avoid pulling Boo into a spotlight that he is wholly unprepared to deal with.  Scout knows this instinctively, when Atticus asks her if she can possibly understand:  "Well it'd sort of be like shooting a mockingbird, wouldn't it?"  Despite the treatment Boo had withstood at the hands of his harsh father, and then brother, Boo was a mockingbird.  He had been involved in some innocent teenage hijinks, for which he paid the price with his life.  He had never hurt anyone, and ultimately, save the Finch children from an evil drunk.  Because he had lived most of his life without stepping outside the house, he was absolutely unable to cope with the type of gossip, publicity, and attention he would receive if the story of what really happened were to be made public.  Although this "mockingbird" wasn't living much of a life, to force him into the spotlight of this incident would surely kill him once and for all, figuratively if not literally.

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A very important theme reveals itself in the symbol in the book’s title:  “mockingbird.”  The Boo Radley and Tom Robinson plots are integrally connected, brought together in that symbol. Like the mockingbird, both characters are vulnerable and harmless, at the mercy of an often unreasonable and cruel society that cannot tolerate difference, whether in color or anything else.  Atticus and Miss Maudie explain that to kill a mockingbird is a sin because it is a harmless creature that gives others its song.  To suggest that a black man “is a harmless creature” is rather condescending approach to the racism the book dramatizes, but we must understand that tone as indicative of when the book was written, 1960.

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The main theme is dealing with a world filled with prejudice and doing one's best to overcome it. Atticus Finch raises his children, Jem and Scout, in Maycomb, Georgia, in the 1930s. When a white woman accuses a black man (Tom Robinson) of rape, the town immediately believes that he has committed the crime. The only evidence they need is the accusation by a white woman.

Other themes that are closely related to overcoming prejudice include courage vs. cowardice and knowledge vs. ignorance.

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What themes does Atticus support in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Without Atticus Finch, there wouldn't be many themes in To Kill a Mockingbird at all. He outlines a theme and Scout and Jem discover it. For example, the title of the book is a theme that originates with something that Atticus says when the children receive air rifles for Christmas:

"I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot at all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (90).

Miss Maudie breaks the meaning of this passage down for Scout by explaining that mockingbirds don't do anything to hurt anybody. They provide sweet songs to listen to and they aren't pests to farmers or anyone else. Anyone who has the advantage over a mockingbird and takes it is committing a sin because it's a defenseless fight. This is symbolic of what happens to Boo Radley and Tom Robinson in the novel as well. They are harmless to society, yet they are taken advantage of by others who have more status or ability than they do, which is unfair and mean. The theme is not to take advantage of others who are defenseless or who have less than you do.

Another theme supported by Atticus is to stand up for other people whenever you are called to do so. Atticus is appointed by Judge Taylor to take the Tom Robinson case. He didn't choose it--it chose him. But rather than do a sloppy job of it to get it out of the way, Atticus stands up to the prejudice surrounding the case by doing his best for his client. The following is a moment when Scout asks her father if he is going to win the Tom Robinson case:

"'Atticus, are we going to win it?'

'No, honey.'

'Then why--'

'Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win'" (76).

Atticus is referring to the hundreds of years of white men keeping black people as slaves. After the Civil War freed them, discrimination in the South was substituted as the new way to keep the black population down and out of control socially and politically. Even though the odds are against his case and his client, Atticus still stands up for what is right.

One final theme to touch on is when Atticus teaches Jem about what true courage is. In chapter 11, Mrs. Dubose calls Atticus terrible names to his children, not to his face. Atticus doesn't hold a grudge, though. In fact, he admires her because she conquers her morphine addiction before she dies. Atticus says the following:

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in  his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew" (112).

Again we see the theme of persevering when the odds are stacked against you; but we also see what courage and bravery are. Atticus says that following through with a goal that seems hard to achieve takes courage, not solving problems with guns or negative influences.

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What are the major themes in To Kill a Mockingbird?

One of the most important themes in this powerful text is that of empathy and understanding. Maycomb, as is shown in the text, is a society that is clearly split through class, race and numerous other distinctions. In such an environment of inequality, Atticus teaches his children the importance and value of empathy, and of trying to see the world through the eyes of other people. Note how this teaching is expressed in Chapter Three:

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

This is a truth that Scout herself realises is correct at the end of the story, when she is able to put herself in the shoes of Boo Radley and see how he views life. She has moved from being a young girl who demonised Boo Radley and saw him as a figure of fun and a kind of "bogeyman" to seeing him as another human being just like her, which is a great mark of maturity. It is interesting that this theme in the novel is explored further by the comparison of Atticus as a moral educator to the other supposed "experts," who are the teachers like Miss Caroline, who is shown to be so inflexible in her understanding of education that she threatens to do real harm to the children in her care. It is Atticus who is portrayed as being the better educator, as his lessons give his children maturity and help them grow up into responsible adults who understand the reality of the world and yet are able to operate morally within it.

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What are thematic topics in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Three main themes in To Kill A Mockingbird are prejudice, maturation, and courage.

Prejudice, or prejudging a person, is the main theme of the parallel storylines of the novel. In the first, the children prejudge Boo Radley without knowing him, deciding that he is a frightening bogeyman. Because of their preconceived notions, they find it hard to accept the ways he is reaching out to them in kindness, such as putting a blanket over Scout's shoulders on the cold night that Miss Maudie's house burns or mending Jem's torn pants. Likewise, the white community in Maycomb prejudges Tom Robinson, deciding he must be guilty of rape because he is a black man. Even though Atticus offers a fair defense of him that shows that Robinson could not have raped Mayella, racial prejudice means he is found guilty.

Unlike the racist whites of Maycomb, Scout and Jem mature over the course of the novel, coming to understand, after he saves their lives, that Boo is not a monster but a compassionate human being. Throughout the novel, as well, they are offered lessons that help them develop a more nuanced understanding of the world, such as when Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to her black church and they witness the humanity and solidarity of the black community.

The children also receive repeated lessons in courage. They learn that Mrs. Dubose is a woman of great courage as she fights her morphine addiction before she dies. Scout also comes to understand Atticus's courage, both when he kills the rabid dog and, more importantly, when he stands up to his local white community by mounting a fair defense of Tom Robinson.

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What are the primary themes in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is full of what might be called "life lessons," and they are the primary themes of this work. 

One of the themes found in this novel is courage in the face of adversity. The novel is full of examples which demonstrate this theme. Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is an unlikely heroic figure, as she treats the Finch children abominably. Though she is a cantankerous woman, she wins the battle over her morphine addiction. Atticus tells Jem:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

Boo Radley is another heroic figure, as he protects Jem and Scout from being killed by Bob Ewell despite his reclusive nature. Tom Robinson is a grand hero, helping a white girl (Mayella Ewell) out of kindness, despite the potential risks of a black man being accused of anything by a white woman. Miss Maudie is heroic because she accepts the abusive taunting of the foot-washin' Baptists and still maintains her faith in God and man. Atticus probably demonstrates more courage than anyone in this novel, as he does the impossible--he actually defends a black man. He makes it hard for the jury to do what it usually does, convict every black man of every crime they are accused of committing. Courage abounds in this novel.

Class and color are also prominent themes in this novel. In Maycomb we find white people who are both rich and poor and black and white people who are both good and awful people. The best examples of that are the Ewells and the Cunninghams. Both families are terribly poor, yet the Cunninghams are honorable and, in the end, reasonable people. The Ewells, on the other hand, are not. Bob Ewell is a despicable man, and it is clear that he would be that way even if he had money. Class has nothing to do with color.

Calpurnia, a black maid, is educated as well as her employer, Atticus Finch, and she does not prefer people because of their race. One of the women in Cal's church, however, is not at all welcoming to the Finch children when they come to church with Calpurnia. Class has nothing to do with color. 

The two innocents in the novel, Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, are of different colors  but share the same willingness to help others despite the risks to themselves. Class has nothing to do with color. 

By the end of the novel, Scout has learned the lesson. She tells Jem:

“I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.” 

One final theme in the novel concerns the necessity of compassion and empathy. Atticus shares a piece of advice with Scout, and it stands her in good stead when things begin to get difficult for her. 

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 

His point is that everyone has a story. Boo Radley should not be mocked because he is a human being with a story. Tom Robinson should not be convicted of something until his story is heard. Mrs. Dubose has a story which explains her awful behaviors. Even Mayella has a story, though her father does not want anyone to hear it. This sense of compassion for others, especially those who are different, is a consistent theme throughout the novel.

This story is full of inspiring themes which are applicable to our lives. 

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What are some of the major themes in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird exhibits several major themes; two of these are the complexity of human nature and racism. As the novel opens, the young Scout believes in the inherent goodness of human nature (as most children with predominantly happy childhoods do). However, as the book progresses, she begins to understand that people are not two-dimensional figures who are either good or bad. She recognizes that her family's friends and neighbors exhibit both virtuous and evil traits. This understanding of the complexity of human nature serves as one of the major checkpoints for Scout's "coming-of-age."

The primary vehicle through which Scout begins to understand the complexity of human nature is racism. She is appalled at how vicious the townspeople become toward her father for defending Tom Robinson, an African American on trial for raping a white woman. Moreover, she struggles with the injustice these people exhibit by convicting Robinson, despite the evidence clearly proving his innocence. At first, these things are difficult for her to accept, because she previously considered many of the racists to be good-natured. However, Scout begins to realize that both good and evil are present within the human heart.

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What are two themes of To Kill a Mockingbird?

Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee emphasizes the key themes of resistance to racism and the importance of feeling empathy.

The idea that racism is a destructive force that harms everyone is shown at many points in the novel. Tom Robinson resists racism by helping Mayella Ewell, even though he knows that her father is a racist and it would be risky for a Black man to be found alone with a white woman. After Tom is unjustly charged with rape, Atticus Finch decides to defend him despite his virtual certainty that he cannot win the case. Atticus believes that it is important to show the town, and his children, that white people should advocate for justice toward Black people.

The importance of empathy is especially conveyed through Atticus’s repeated advice to his children. He constantly reminds them that there are different ways to consider a given situation. He often uses the metaphor of walking in someone else’s shoes or sometimes of being in their skin. This advice becomes especially significant when Jem lashes out against Mrs. Dubose, not understanding that she is terminally ill. This concept applies to Arthur Radley as well, as Atticus encourages them to think of him as a human being rather than imagine that he is a monster.

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What is an important theme of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

One important theme of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird involves the ideal of empathy -- of trying to see life as it is lived and experienced by another person.

One important example of this theme occurs when Atticus tells Scout that

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view." (p. 48)

Another signficant example of this idea occurs when Atticus commends Scout and Jem by saying,

"Last night you children made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute." (p. 259)

In other words, the children helped Cunningham see things from Atticus' perspective.

Finally, a third example occurs when Atticus says to his son,

"Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell's shoes a minute." (p. 361)

That is, Atticus encourages his son to view life from Ewell's point of view, if only temporarily.

Throughout the novel, the importance of trying to view experience from the perspectives of others is strongly stressed.  The book implies that if more people were able to do this, more justice would prevail in the world.

(50th anniversary edition)

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