To Kill A Mockingbird Themes

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Growing Up - Scout

To Kill a Mockingbird shows her growing awareness of the world around her. It is told by mature Scout looking back at the past - a flashback - we get a useful view of her hindsight. Her naivety's highlighted as the reader understands events better than she her. 

Over the course of the novel, Scout learns various lessons:

-From Calpurnia: politeness should be shown to all people
-From Atticus: to be tolerant, to react calmly to events -'Atticus had promised me he would wear me out if he ever  heard of me fighting anymore.. the sooner i learned to hold in, the better off everybody would be'-, to be able to turn  the other cheek, to appreciate different kinds of courage - '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' 
-Aunt Alexandra how to be a lady - 'Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly  hope to be a lady if i wore breeches'
-Atticus and Heck Tate also teach her about society's prejudice and the implications of this, even if she has not  yet been able to identify why prejudice exists. 

By the end of the novel, she shows signs of understanding Atticus' lessons about viewing a situation from other's perspective - 'Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley Porch was enough' . The reader she is still a child as she's reading 'The Grey Ghost' , which she was reading at the start. She feels she has learnt all she can for now. 

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Growing Up - Jem

At start, Jem likes playing supersitious games about Boo with Scout & Dill - ' I know what we are going to play...something different' 'What?' 'Boo Radley' - shows he's still a child. His maturing is marked when he gets his trousers - 'Atticus ain't ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way' - and that he realises they 'shouldn'a done that tonight' . Scout says it 'was then.. that Jem and I first began to part company. Sometimes I did not understand him..' shows this event signifies a turning point in their relationship. Until now they were very similar in terms of maturity but Jem has suddenly overtaken Scout, and left her behind. Jem takes control snowman building - not a game, but taking a mature approach to finding resources. Not the first time Jem is ordering Scout about, the age difference become apparents - 'he permitted me to cover only the back, saving the public parts for himself'. Jem is aware he's older, so thinks he has authority. Also when he takes her to school -'Jem would be delighted to show me where my room was'  he warns her 'during school hours' Scout 'was not to bother him' implied that she'll 'embarass him with references to his private life' - he's acting more mature at school to impress other kids. Scout can't understand why he's acting differently at school than home when they're on the same level. In Chapter 8, he beings to recognise Boo's human side and the game ends. he slowly gets separate from Scout & Dill, especially after punishment with Mrs Dubose. Him going from child to adult is shown in different ways: Miss Maudie gives him a slice of big cake, Cal - 'I just cant help it if Mister Jem's growing up' . He takes a mature approach in telling Atticus Dill ran away. He's proud of signs of physical maturity - shows emotional response to injustice of trial. Though not a child still, he's having trouble coming to terms with adult world. By the end, he's taken on some adult attitudes/views. He's learnt from Atticus' - when he tries to make Scout feel better about the pageant. 

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Examples of Courage:
Miss Maudie's optimism after her house burnt down.
Atticus facing a mad dog.
Boo saving Jem from Ewell - He was stuck inside the house, but saw his children being attacked he left to save them.
Atticus defending Tom Robinson
Atticus waiting outside Tom Robinsons jail cell - He knew there could be a mob, he even told Jem they'd have hurt him, but he knew he couldn't leave Tom alone. His sense of justice was stronger than his fear for himself.

Courage to fight against evil & prejudice:
Atticus defending Tom. It takes courage for Atticus to counter people's beliefs to do what he thinks is morally right.
Mrs Dubose says to him 'Your father's no better than the ******* and trash he works for.
Although Atticus is criticized for what he decides is right, he bravely ignores the disapprobation.
Mr Underwood's article on Tom Robinson's death. He likens the event to "the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children." This is courageous, as he is standing up against common beliefs of racism.

'Real Courage'
Mrs Dubose overcoming her morphine addiction. "Her head moved slowly from side to side. From time to time she would open her mouth wide, and I could see her tongue undulate faintly."
It takes a great amount of self-confidence to be able to recognise that you have a flaw, and even more to change it.
She wants to die a free woman.

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Most promient theme of the novel, directed to groups and individuals in Maycomb society and linked with fear, superstition and injustice.Dominant form of prejudice is racial prejudice. The period during which Lee was writing and the time at which the novel was set would have informed her presentation of the topic.
Maycomb divided into clear  groups. The black's are seen as bottom of the hierarchy, below lowest class of white's - Ewells - categorised  as 'White Trash'. Tom says he 'felt sorry' for Mayella this seized on by Mr Gilmer, as interpreted as lowest class showing superiority towards a class above. Ewells would've felt threatened by black's as, after the abolition of slavery, there was no longer a clear distinction between the white lower class and black's.
Although women aren't seen as a seperate group, we learn - from Miss Maudie, religion, (Chapter 5) and from Atticus, law, - women are regarded as unequal to men by the Maycomb community. They are not permitted to sit on the jury (Chapter 23) and Scout learns that women are expected to behave and dress in a certain way. When Atticus says about Tom's trial than he is 'in favour of Southern womanhood as much as anybody, but not for preserving polite fiction at the expense of human life' (Chapter 15) we see how entrenched this idealised view of woman is.
Lee broadens discussion of prejudice showing how different kinds are interlinked. Showing how the bad economic situation and isolated nature of the community means prejudice is directed to allcharacters who do not fit into the expected behavioral patterns of the society. Such as the Radleys, or Miss Caroline from North Alabama.
Atticus's view of standing in anothers shoes to see their point of view leads to understanding and tolerance rather that prejudice. E.g. when the kids see that Boo is a real person their prejudice dies. Atticus repeats this leeson to the kids, such as when he sypathises with Mrs Dubose and Mr Ewell. At the trial he tries to get the white jury to stand in Tom's shoes. Scout does this to understand Mayellas's loneliness.
Atticus's responce to Scout saying Boo was 'real nice' at the end leaves the reader happy: 'Most people are Scout, when you finally see them'. Implies that barriers of prejudice are breaking down. 

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