The novel explores prejudice in its many forms - snobbery, social exclusion, religious prejudice and racism. Scout’s hometown, Maycomb, is a typical southern town and is a hotbed of prejudice. Social snobbery is rampant. Scout’s Aunt Alexandra is an incurable snob. She looks down on the Cunninghams because they are poor farmers. She tells Scout that she may not play with Walter Cunningham because ‘he is trash’.
Everybody in Maycomb regards the Ewell family as ‘trash’. They live on a dump and their father spends his welfare money on whiskey. The children would starve if he wasn’t allowed to poach in the local woods. Every year, Maycomb gives them ‘Christmas baskets and the back of its hand’. This shows us the hypocrisy of white people; they will offer some charity at Christmas but they like to pretend that people like the Ewells don’t exist.
People are also prejudiced towards the innocent victim of a cruel father, Boo Radley. Boo has harmed nobody and most people haven’t seen him for years, yet people, like Miss Stephanie Crawford, spread vicious rumours about him and convince children that he is a ‘malevolent phantom’ who eats live squirrels and makes people’s flowers freeze during a cold snap.
The strongest form of prejudice in the novel is racism. While the Ewells are regarded as trash who live among pigs, respectable, hard-working, black people are still seen to be inferior to the Ewells.
When a well-respected African-American man, Tom Robinson, is accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, he is immediately presumed guilty. Atticus says ‘Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella...