Themes in To Kill a Mockingbird
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As one of the most profound novels of 20th-century American literature, To Kill a Mockingbird contains in its pages a number of profound themes. Arguably one of the most famous is the notion of the existence of social inequality and how differently individuals respond to it. Set during the Great Depression, social inequality pervaded the community of Maycomb, with the primary characters living in a household of relative means. While Jem and Scout are able to live comfortably during such a trying time, their father, Atticus perpetually teaches them that they could lose it all in a moment. They are taught to never take for granted what they are fortunate enough to have, and to respect all others, despite any differences in socioeconomic status. To further this, Atticus works with his clients’ abilities to pay for his services; from some, he takes reduced payments, while from others he takes payment in the form of household goods or manufactured products.
A similar theme in the novel is the notion of racial inequality in society and what can be done to address it. The central conflict of the novel revolves around the trial of Tom Robinson. The town of Maycomb has already convicted the man, regardless of what the outcome of the trial actually will be. To combat this, Atticus provides Tom with his legal services, working to ensure that a man is truly innocent until proven guilty, regardless of the color of his skin. The children watch as Tom and their father are subjected to taunts, jeers, and oftentimes violent reactions, yet Atticus does not back down. He provides his children with a valuable moral lesson: all people are worthy of the same type of treatment, regardless of their race, gender, socioeconomic status, or other discernable feature.