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To Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a Mockingbird

Racism, poverty, and social class discrimination were prevalent after the Great Depression. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee portrays these issues creatively and dramatically. The story is set in the small Alabama town of Maycomb in the 1930's. Due to the size of the town, everyone was known to one another in the community. To Kill a Mockingbird displays a conflict between the individual and the community when each has a different standard of right and wrong. Are morals a matter of an individual's conscience or the standards set by society/community? Where do the rights of the community end and the individual begin?

As any many small communities in the South, family is the corner stone of the structure. It was no different in Maycomb. Generation after generation continued to live there. The majority of the families stayed in close communication with one another and served a support system, not only for the extended family members but for their neighbors as well. For this reason however the town becomes stagnant and does not progress. "A day was twenty-four hours long but seems longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County (10)."

Despite the small size of the town, there are still four very distinct social classes within the community structure. Jem states, "There's four kinds of folks in the world. There's the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes (103)". Jem and several others in the story suggest that one's personal merit is inherited. Parenting styles played a significant role in the moral principles and standards of the community. It is apparent that the discrimination and segregation within the community had become predictable and too familiar to the residents of Maycomb County. The older generations were set in their customs and beliefs discounting any variations. It is unclear if these family traits are passed down from generation to generation or just learned characteristics. There was no individualism at this point, everyone and everything was placed in a group. The social hierarchy was confusing and complicated in Maycomb County. The black community, regardless of their high moral qualities and admirable values were at the bottom of the social class. The Finches were classified in the upper class of whites, the farmers such as the Cunningham's were considered the middle class of whites, the uneducated ignorant lower class such as the Ewells were considered white trash.

There is innocence among children, not only in this story but throughout society today. They see people at "face value". Honesty, compassion, and forgiveness are true virtues within children. Atticus had tried to instill these values in Jem and Scout. Atticus is an attorney committed to justice and equality and encourages this behavior to everyone he interacts with especially his children. It is evident that this was the case when Atticus advised Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb

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