To Kill a Mockingbird

by: Harper Lee

Prejudice

1

“I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.”

Scout says this to Jem when they are discussing why different groups in their town do not get along. Jem disagrees and believes that people’s differences are the source of their disagreements. While Jem accurately identifies a major source of conflict in Maycomb, Scout expresses a deeper yet more naïve understanding of people’s shared humanity. Her innocence is also a lesson to the reader, because it communicates an idealized world in which people are able to respect one another despite racial and socioeconomic differences.

2

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—” “Sir?” “—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

This conversation between Atticus and Scout comes early in the book, after Scout’s first day of school. Atticus is trying to get Scout to understand why her new teacher behaved differently than Scout expected and discourages her from making judgments about others, especially on the basis of race or class, until she has considered their individual perspective. This conversation sets up an ongoing theme of empathy and guides Scout’s efforts to imagine other characters’ interpretations of important events, such as the Tom Robinson trial.

3

“Cry about the simple hell people give other people—without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too.”

Although this line sounds like a command, the speaker, Dolphus Raymond, is actually predicting what Dill won’t do when he gets older. He says that once Scout and Dill become accustomed to the current world, they will no longer be shocked or even upset by the injustices they witness every day. This comment implies that children are morally superior to adults because they have not yet been jaded by the unfair world around them.

4

“There’s some folks who don’t eat like us,” she whispered fiercely, “but you ain’t called on to contradict ’em at the table when they don’t. That boy’s yo’ comp’ny and if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?”

These are Calpurnia’s angry instructions to Scout after Walter Cunningham comes over for lunch and Scout makes fun of how much maple syrup he uses. The scene shows that Maycomb suffers from a sharp class divide as well as a racial one. This class divide, indicated here by table manners and elsewhere by literacy or other signs of education, also influences the central court case of the book, because many Maycomb residents look down on the Ewell family for being poor. It is interesting that Calpurnia uses the word “us” to refer to herself and the Finches, because the black and white populations of Maycomb are often opposed.