Mrs. Nimmo/Mr. Cummings
22 April 2014
To Kill a Mockingbird
We will never be able to measure the full effects that prejudice has on society. Realistically, it is very difficult for people to admit where they have gone wrong. Most people judge others daily by how they dress, talk, and look, most of the time without knowing it. Prejudice has an immense impact on who it is directed at; and yes, it is possible for prejudice to be lessened, but it will never be eliminated. In To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee illustrates the prejudice found in a small Alabamian town through the subjects of social classes, gender, and race.
The first type of prejudice is social prejudice, which is a form of discrimination based solely on an individual’s social status. The townspeople are more respected and are considered to be of a higher social class due to their occupations and wealth. The book focuses on two farming families, the Cunningham’s and the Ewell’s, but the Cunningham’s claim a higher social status because the Ewell’s are known as "trash." Their family lacks manners and regard for society's rules and morals. During this time period, even the children were not allowed to play with children of a different class. Aunt Alexandra explains this matter to Scout when she says, "I'll tell you why, because--he--is--trash, that's why you can't play with him." (225) The black community is considered to be the lowest social class. If you had black skin during this time you were automatically placed at the bottom of the class chain. “Cecil Jacobs made me forget. He had announced in the schoolyard the day before that Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers. I denied it, but told Jem.” (97) Blacks were considered dirty and unsanitary, therefore people didn’t want them in their homes or to be associated with them in any way. Social prejudice is immoral because of the fact that people shouldn’t be judged on their income or employment, instead they should be looked at for the type of person that they are or for their contribution to their communities.
A second type of prejudice found in To Kill a Mockingbird is a type that discriminates against an individual’s gender. A common rule directed towards women in the early1900’s was that they were excluded from voting and from being members of the jury. Many people claimed that women could not handle various situations because they were considered to be too weak to hear details about a case and then, form an accurate verdict. On page 221, Atticus explains why women were generally left out of court cases, “I guess it’s like that to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom’s. Besides, I doubt if we’d ever get a complete case […] the ladies would be interrupting to ask questions.” (221) A second example of prejudice found in the novel is the certain criteria or image that women must achieve, many refer to it as "acting like a lady." Scout is made aware of this when her Aunt Alexandra tells her that she must “behave ladylike,”(310) and wear a dress instead of the clothes she normally chooses to wear which resemble those of a boy, this makes Scout feel uncomfortable and adds to her already present distaste of her Aunt. Other qualities that Scout has that resemble those of a boy is that she has a tendency to fight and cuss. She is told to stop this and begin to act like a lady. It's unfortunate that women had to meet certain expectations other than expressing who they are as an individual.
The last type of prejudice found in the novel is racial prejudice; which is a form of discrimination based on the color of a person’s skin. A basic example of this is when Tom Robinson is convicted of raping Mayella Ewell. Tom was convicted because his word, as a black man, was not considered as important or truthful if it was up against that of a white man. Tom was innocent and never should have been accused of the crime, but because the white race was superior to that of the