Themes

Quick revise
Good and Evil

The main theme in the novel is the exploration of moral nature of humans. It is a exploration of whether people are essentially good or essentially evil.

The novel explores this idea through using Scout and Jem movement from childhood innocence to mature understanding adults.

As a result of this transition from innocence to experience, one of the important themes involves threat, hatred, prejudice, racism and ignorance.

These themes show how innocent people can be betrayed by ignorance.

Even Jem is victimized to an extent by his discovery of the evil of racism during and after the trial.

Scout is able to sustain her faith in human nature.

The moral voice in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is embodied by Atticus Finch is unique in the novel because he understands people without loosing faith when evil occurs.

Atticus accepts people for what they are good and bad qualities included.

Atticus accepts these points and tries to see life through other people’s eyes.

Atticus can admire Mrs Dubose’ s courage whilst in deplores her racism.

Scout learns from her father and at last sees Boo Radley in this way and accept him for good and bad points

Moral Importance

The education of children forms a large part of the novel. In a sense the novel plots the development of Scout and Jem from childhood innocence to maturity.

The theme of education and moral importance is best shown between Atticus and Scout, as Atticus devotes himself to instilling a social conscience.

The scenes at school provide a direct comparison to Atticus’s effective education of his children, Scout is frequently confronted with teachers who are frustrated by her attitude and fail to meet her needs.

The novel’s most important message is that the lessons of sympathy and understanding are the most vital.

Atticus’s ability to put himself in his children’s shoes and see their perspective makes him an understanding and valuable teacher.

Social Inequality

The social inequality in the novel is explored using the town of Maycomb and its complicated hierarchy.

The Finch family are well off within the town largely due to Atticus’s employment. As a result most of the town’s people are beneath them.

The country farmers, the Cunninghams lie below the town’s people due to their ignorance whilst the Ewells are below the Cunninghams because of their immoral behaviour.

The black community in Maycomb lie even further below the Ewells in spite of their admirable qualities and good will.

It is this social hierarchy which allows the innocent Tom Robinson to be punished by the evil Bob Ewell.

These social divisions make up a large part of the adult world which Jem and Scout see, and these divisions appear to be irrational and destructive.

Social division ultimately epitomises the prejudice and ignorance of human nature.

Small Town life

Lee focuses closely on the old fashioned small town values of Maycomb.

In order to contrast with the themes of ignorance and prejudice and the suspense and tension of the novel. Lee emphasises the slow paced and good natured ambiance of small town Maycomb.

Lee juxtaposes small town values with images of evil, to show the forces of good and evil within the town. For example: The terror of the fire is contrasted with people of Maycomb coming together to save Miss Maudie’s valued possessions.

Mockingbirds

The title carries great symbolic weight in the novel, as it represents good being destroyed by evil.

The mockingbird represents the idea of good- thus to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence.

 Throughout the novel Jem, Tom, Dill and Boo are all symbolised as mockingbirds – ie innocents who have been destroyed through contact with evil.

This connection is explicit after Tom’s death Mr. Underwood compares his death to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds,”

Whilst Miss Maudie epitomises the concept of the novel when she declares “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but . . . sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

The fact that Jem and Scout’s last name is Finch (a small bird) suggests that they are vulnerable and innocent within this racist world.