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What have you learnt about life in Southern States of America in
1930's from your reading of To Kill A Mocking Bird ?
'Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town' however when we
look closely into the book we learn much more about the life of the
town in 1930's America.
Looking into the society of Maycomb, prejudice was something that was
common yet not recognised by many of the towns people.
One example of prejudice is of equal opportunities for both sexes.
Women don't have equal rights with men; They have to dress according
to the society's acceptance otherwise they would be commented about.
An example would be of Scout as Aunt Alexandra says to her: 'Well, you
won't get far until you start wearing dresses more often' (Chapt. 24)
This represents that the concept of the dressing has been going on in
her times too and not just later. We also notice that women don't
work, the only time we see they do something is participating and
gossiping in the missionary tea circle, gardening, an example of this
would be Miss Maudie and her flowers. In this chapter we learn that
the women are groomed for the occasion; we learn from Scout that
'women wear hats to cross the streets', another dress code for women.
'Our kind of folks don't like the Cunningham's, the Cunningham's don't
like the Ewell's and the Ewell's hate and despise the coloured folks'.
From this quote from Jem, we learn that the society is split into
groups, by class structure and economic wealth.
These categories have their own way of living and approach to life and
no matter what happens their attitudes will stay the same against each
other, this is due to the misunderstanding caused by prejudice. From
the novel, we see the class structure with the people living in the
Finches neighbourhood at the top as they are well off and richer than
the Cunningham's, who were badly hit by the Wall St crash, however
they are decent people than the Ewell's who live amongst the dumps by
the river; we also learn that the Ewell children only attend the first
day of school and don't wash themselves. However we learn that both
black and white people despise them as, the Mayella Ewell claimed that
Tom Robinson raped her. The whites despise the Ewell's due to their
way of life.
At the bottom of the hierarchy, is the negroes as they are coloured
Another form of prejudice is myths and fears, especially about one
character, Arthur (Boo) Radley.
The community fears that if they act eccentrically and fail to follow
the social rules they will end up like Boo. This prejudice that people
have stop people believing in what they want to for instance fear of
ending up like Boo. Arthur Radley, more commonly known as Boo by the
children, is a figure of fear and mystery as he was locked up in his
house by his father.
The community's fears exaggerate his activities to include poisoning
pecan nuts in the schoolyard, eating cats and squirrels raw,
terrifying Miss Stephanie Crawford by staring through her window at
night and killing azaleas by breathing on them. Boo Radley has been an
outcast to the village since he stole a vehicle when he was younger
and being kept home was a punishment given from his father.
However an important theme in this story is racial prejudice and
Many examples are shown through the trial of Tom Robinson. In chapter
16, a lynch mob made up of normal respectable men, is ready to kill,
as there is deep hatred and fear existing between whites and negroes
meaning violence could break out at any time.
A example of hatred and violence is Bob Ewell's hatred of Atticus
which nearly results in the death of Jem and Scout in chapter 28.
Racial Prejudice is shown in this novel, including segregation. An
example is of the negroes living on the outskirts of Maycomb and white
people in the main part of Maycomb. Another example we notice is when
Scout is at school and there is not a single black child in her class
as they were not allowed to be educated together.
Atticus describes to Scout that racial prejudice is 'Maycomb's usual
However the greatest irony of racial segregation occurs when people
gather to pray to God on Sunday's in separate churches, the
townspeople in Methodist / Baptist churches and the coloured in the
First Purchase, which was bought with the first money freed slaves
In late 1800's black people were brought to America as slaves to work
for white people. Negroes were considered to have cheap lives and that
'...all negroes lie and are immoral'.
They were also thought (Atticus goes on to say this) to all lust after
white women, which is one of the factors leading to Tom Robinson being
accused by Mayella.
In the novel, we also learn that there are no black children in
Scout's class or living in Scout's neighbourhood, as coloured folk
lived on the outskirts of Maycomb.
However in chapter 12 we learn through Scout the way the people in
First Purchase conduct a different church service to what she attends.
When everyone stands for the hymn, Zeebo reads a line out of the book
and everyone else sings that line. Not only do we see on difference in
the way the service is held but that Zeebo is literate.
For negroes being literate wasn't common as 'Only four people in the
First Purchase can read', explains Calpurnia . Calpurnia, the Finch's
cook, is literate as she explains how she received her education not
through school: 'Who taught me my letters? It was Miss Maudie
Atkinson's aunt. Old Miss Buford-'
Being literate for negroes wasn't much of an advantage as they still
could only work doing awful jobs, an example is Zeebo. In Chapt 10,
when Atticus shoots the mad dog, Zeebo is the one who comes to collect
the dead dog and take it away.
In 1930's, white people had better jobs than negroes like Atticus, who
is a lawyer.
However it is Atticus who succeeded in defending Tom Robinson.
Tom Robinson was found guilty of raping a white girl due to racial
prejudice. Atticus defended Tom, through evidence found him innocent
yet racial prejudice of the jury found him guilty, as the reason was
that he went 'against the acceptable behaviour of a negro' as he was
kind and felt worry for Mayella.
However the jury were aware of their racial prejudice as 'None of the
jury looked at Tom as they entered' meaning that they have already
found him guilty because the colour of his skin and status.
After the court trial Jem says to Atticus that the trial was unfair.
Atticus explains to Jem there can be no fairer system of justice until
people's basic prejudices are changed, and that will not happen
quickly. This is because racism comes from two directions.
Not only were the white population racist, it was possible to having a
negro being racist. We encounter this in chapter 12, at the First
Purchase as a women called Lulu confronts Calpurnia about Jem and
Scout as she says: 'You got no business bringin' white chillun here -
they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church ain't it cal?;
From reading To Kill A Mocking Bird, I have learnt that prejudice was
very common as it was portrayed in many forms.; through racism such as
Tom Robinson's trial and sexism - Maycomb's dress code for women,
which we see Aunt Alexandra explaining to Scout.
I also learnt of the class structure and the way economic wealth
created that, as the Cunningham's were badly hit by the Wall St crash
which resulted in them being very poor, as they could only repay
people ( an example is Atticus) in food not money.
Not only the economic issue split the people in Maycomb but the way of
living and colour, as the Ewell's live amongst the dumps of Maycomb,
in worse conditions to negroes yet they remain above the black
community in the class structure due to the colour of their skin.
Another thing I have learnt from the book is Mr Dolphus Raymond's way
of life as he is married to a black woman, with mixed raced children.
However his situation seems to be a prime example how both the black
and white community can live to together in peace and harmony. Is it
not easy as his children are mixed race, accepted in North America but
not in the Southern States. Jem explains this to Scout about the
situation of the children. 'Coloured folks won't have 'em because
they're half white; white folks won't have 'em 'cause they're
How to Cite this Page
"Learning about Life in Southern States of America in the 1930's from To Kill A Mocking Bird." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Apr 2014