Themes and message

Racism and prejudice

One of the main themes of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is racism. The theme is explored by looking at a small town in Southern US in the 1930s and at the trial of a Black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. 

The town of Maycomb appears to be a place where the majority of inhabitants have racist beliefs. While Black people are no longer enslaved, the town follows the racial segregation typical of that time, and many characters express racist views. For example, the Black people in town go to a separate church, called the First Purchase African Church as it was paid for from the first earnings of the freed slaves. Aunt Alexandra is concerned that the children went to a Black church and does not wish them to further associate with Black people, which shows she holds racist beliefs and agrees with racial segregation.

The theme is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Tom Robinson, a Black man, is falsely accused of rape without any evidence against him, and he still loses his trial because the jury chooses to believe white people instead of a Black man. This shows a case of systemic racism, where an entire institution – in this case the judicial system – is shown to unfairly favor white people to the disadvantage of ra...

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