The dictionary defines ignorance as the lack of education or knowledge. Throughout TKAM Harper Lee writes about ignorance and it's affects on society. We learn about the sweet childish ignorance of Scout and Jem compared to the mean coldness of Mr.Ewell. Ignorance shows itself in many different ways such as racism, sexism, and class- ism.
Jem and Scout are sheltered from the world and all it's evilness. Their ignorance is used as a shield to protect them from knowing the terrible realities of Maycomb. Although Scout and Jem aren't as ignorant as many of the more educated adults are, there ignorance stands out as different because theirs doesn't make them racist or sexist. When they lose their innocence they are losing their shield of ignorance. Their ignorance comes and goes throughout the book until the very end, "After that, it didn't matter weather they went or not. Jem said he would take me. Thus began our longest journey together" (p. 254). I think this is about their Journey into adult hood. When they are attacked by Mr. Ewell (the most racist man in town), it is like racism came crashing down on them when he attacked them. they lose their ignorance on that long journey away from their childhood.
Scout and Jem's Naiveté is much different then the ignorance of the town. Their Naivety is stopping them from becoming one of the cruel townspeople. It's interesting because the children's ignorance is there to shield them from the ignorance of the Maycomb people. After Scout loses her ignorance she gains empathy for many people. It is shown with Boo Radley, when she walks him to his house. When she was younger she was terrified of him, she wouldn't even go near his house without running. But she puts herself in his place and understands that he is frightened by adults and takes him to his place. Boo Radley represents her innocence. "He gently released my hand, went inside, and shut the door behind him. I never saw him again" (p. 278). She put her innocence away and never saw it again.
A different type of ignorance which is shone in the missionary scene is the uneducated ignorance of the Maycomb ladies. While they think they are helping "the poor Mrunas" They are really just being racist and narrow minded. They think that just because the Mrunas have a different way of life then they do they need to "save" them. "They had so little sense of family that the whole tribe was one big family. J. Grimes Everett was doing his utmost to change this state of affairs and desperately needed our prayers" (250-251). They don't understand that just because the Mrunas are different then them they are still people who have feelings. They think that because they are white and upper-class that how they live and any other way of life is wrong. This ignorance is why there is racism. People don't understand how other cultures live. If someone is not like them it is bad so the person must be a worse for being different.
Mr. Ewell is the most racist, mean, and sexist man in the whole book. He also understands that he can get away with almost anything. He can hunt out of season, he can "bend the law", and he can get the county to kill an innocent black man. Even though the Ewells are dirtier and not respected at all they can still win anything over a black man and Bob Ewell knows that. Although he himself is ignorant he knows how to use the ignorance of the people and the court. He understands that if wants to he can erase what he did to his daughter by blaming it on Tom. He can get away with it because of tom's skin color. He needs someone to look down upon and the only people he can look down upon are the blacks. You would think that having to live around blacks his entire life he would understand their culture. But no because of he needs to have a little respect in the town he hates them. If he were poor and hung out with blacks no one would respect him at all just like Mr. Raymond.
Although the effects of ignorance all seem pretty different: making people Christian, being at the bottom of the social ladder, having to wear dresses and not fight, in the end it all adds up to not knowing enough about other cultures and the other people in your own. In TKAM there are three main outcomes from the town's ignorance, racism, sexism, and class-ism. If they looked under the fake sweet layer of the town they would find how their society really is, it's not the perfect southern town but the ignorance that helped make the stereotypes that people have lived with ever since .