Discrimination, injustice and racial prejudice are simply part of the norms in the fictional town of Maycomb in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Different kinds of prejudice are interlinked in the novel, indicating that the unstable economic situation and isolated nature of the community means that prejudice is directed towards all sorts of characters who do not fit into the expected behavioural patterns of society. The dominant forms of prejudice in the novel are racial and social prejudice, actively displayed by Bob Ewell and Aunt Alexandra. There is also inequality for women in Maycomb. Atticus’s maxim leads to the understanding and tolerance rather than prejudice. It is suggested that although it is unlikely that prejudice can be eliminated altogether, ‘baby steps’ can be taken to change the attitude of the Maycomb community.
Maycomb is divided into clearly defined social classes. Jem recognises the class structure when he talks of ‘four kinds of folks in the ...view middle of the document...
As a result, the town shuns him out and gossips about him, while the children make up stories about him. Another example of discrimination is against Miss Caroline Fisher, who is from North Alabama and thus considered a kind of foreigner. Scout also notes that Miss Caroline's approach to teaching is not relevant to the children of Maycomb. For, many of them ‘have chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk,’ so the narrative stories do not interest them, but she seems unaware.
Although women are not seen as a separate class group, it is discovered from Miss Maudie that ‘women are a sin by definition’ according to foot-washing Baptists. Atticus also stated that women are regarded as unequal to men by the Maycomb community. They are not permitted to sit on the jury because they are perceived as ‘frail’ and are to be protected from ‘sordid cases’. From Aunt Alexandra, Scout also learns that women are expected to behave and dress in a certain way. The entrenched , idealised view of women became clear when Atticus says that he is ‘in favour of Southern womanhood as much as anybody, but not for preserving polite fiction at the expense of human life’ about Tom Robinson’s trial.
Despite the narrow-mindedness of the Maycomb community, Atticus’s believes that ‘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’. He represents Tom Robinson even though success is unlikely, making a stand against racial prejudice in the Maycomb community. Atticus also express at the end of the novel that ‘Most people are real nice when you finally see them’, this is evident when the children realise that Boo Radley is a real person, prejudice towards him ceases.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ reveals that even though many different kinds of prejudice are just a part of the Maycomb community, steps can be taken through the beliefs of some characters to eliminate prejudice. Atticus mentioned that if you attempt to stand in another’s shoes you will be able to see things from their point of view, leading to an understanding and tolerance instead of being prejudice. This implies that although those barriers of prejudice have not yet been broken down, it is only a matter of time.