To Kill a Mockingbird- Themes

Themes explained in detail from To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Maycomb

Harper Lee manages to paint a clear picture of the whole town of Maycomb and the people who live there.

Everyone knows everyone in Maycomb

  • Its a small town. Aunt Alexandra doesn't even need to say who she is on the phone because people regonise her voice.
  • Scout says Atticus is related to almost everyone in Maycomb.
  • Everyone knows what people are like- the families are almost stereotyped. For example, the Ewell family has been a 'disgrace' for generations.
  • Everyone's business is discussed by the whole town, as it is full of gossips. Often the gossip is inaccurate. For example, Dolphus Raymond is judged to be a drunk but Dill and Scout found out he isn't really.

Maycomb's an ordinary place

  • It's hot. Scout says ladies bathe twice a day and are still sweaty by nightfall.
  • Although Scout says Maycomb is a "tired old town" it is full of eccentric characters to keep you interested in the story.
  • Nothing much ever changes- even a covering of snow is rare. This suggests it takes a while for attitudes to change in the town.

The Geography of the town is clearly described

  • Harper Lee describes the town and neighbourhood in detail.
  • Scour describes exactly where the Radley house is, the school, Mrs Dubose's house, Cecil Jacob's place and the Post Office right near the start of the novel.
  • Later on, Scout tells us that the Ewells live near the dump and that black people live in a seperate part of town to white people.

Harper Lee uses it to represent Any Southern Town

  • Scout says theres "just one kind of folks. Folks."
  • Just about everyone in the town is described in the book, down to the reverand and sheriff.
  • The people in Maycomb aren't 'bad'- but its hard to break away from prejudice when its all around you in a town like Maycomb.
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Racism and Intolerance

Probably one of the main reasons the novel was written.

Most whites in Maycomb think black people are Inferior

  • Scout asks Calpurnia why she uses "******-talk". Scout thinks the way white people talk is better.
  • The missionary ladies think that because Africa is full of black people, it is also full of "sin and squalor".
  • When Tom Robinson dies, people say he tried to run away because he was black and black people "cut and run".
  • Rev. Sykes has never known a jury to take a black man's word against a white man's.
  • Mrs Dubose calls Atticus a "******-lover". Many characters are angry about him defending Tom.

Characters use racist words without a second thought

  • Scout says "******" and says everyone else says it too.
  • Mrs Merriweather calls Helen Robinson a "darky's wife".
  • When characters use these words its because they think black people are less important. They also think they are less sensitive and don't need to be treated as equals or with respect.

Theres loads of other evidence of racism in the town

  • Calpurnia had to teach her children to read and write because education is segrigated and theres no school for black people in Maycomb.
  • When Tom is in jail a group of men come for him. This is because they believe that because he's black he must be guilty.
  • Even though the Ewell's have a terrible reputation, their word is taken over a black person's.h

Harper Lee wants to change people's racist attitudes

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