Imagine if you were thrown into the South in the middle of the Great Depression; you would probably be very preoccupied with race and social class. Accordingly, in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird, set in Maycomb County, Alabama in the 1930’s, race and social class are big issues. During these times, blacks were hated and looked down upon by many white people. The Jim Crow laws established segregation between whites and blacks and discrimination against blacks. These laws play a huge role in To Kill A Mockingbird by setting up the social environment of the book. Throughout the book, we get introduced to many characters and families including the Cunninghams, the Ewells, Tom Robinson, and the Finches. All of these characters occupy a specific role in the social pyramid based on race, class, and other factors. For Scout, throughout the book, social class overrides racism in terms of how she judges and values other people at first, but ultimately a person’s essence determines their real value.
The Cunninghams are looked at as very low in the social pyramid because they are of a lower class, but once Scout gets to know them, she sees that they are actually good people. Early on in the book, on Walter Cunningham’s first day of school, Miss Caroline notices he that he does not have lunch and offers to loan him a quarter, but Walter refuses. Scout explains, “He didn’t forget his lunch, he didn’t have any. He had none today nor would he have any tomorrow or the next day. He had probably never seen three quarters together at the same time in his life” (Page 26). Scout uses many negative words in this quote, such as “didn’t,” “any,” “none,” “nor,” and “never,” creating an emphasis on what he does not have. This shows us exactly how low the Cunninghams are in the social pyramid, because they are characterized by everything they don’t have, rather then everything they do have. Later that day the Finches invite over