To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Racism and Acceptance

Nothing more pervades the novel than the ideas of racism and acceptance. Atticus has built a whole value system around the idea that a person must examine and respect who people are and where they come from. This includes even the most unsavory characters like Bob Ewell and Mrs. Dubose. When others would rather forget about these people, Atticus takes the time to understand them. This is a value Atticus passes onto his children as well. Towards the end of the novel Scout says, "I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks." She understands Atticus' belief that all human beings must be accepted and treated equally.

But Atticus must also live these beliefs, not just voice them, which is why he takes the case of Tom Robinson. When no one in the town will stand by Tom, Atticus is there for him, defending him to the best of his abilities. Tom is a African-American in a small Southern town and very few people would act as Atticus does. Racism is cultural and runs very deep in the town of Maycomb. Even those who believe in Tom's innocence will not stand up for him. It would be against the social mores of most people to defend a black man, especially in a case that contradicts the word and honor of a white woman. But Atticus stands for what he knows is right, and his children learn from this. We watch them mature into people who look into a persons soul and life and don't make judgments based on race or social status.

When Scout wishes to invite Walter Cunningham to dinner, we see that she has gained a new knowledge of acceptance. But Aunt Alex, a model of archaic Southern manners, doesn't believe an individual of Walter's standing should associate with them. She also disagrees with the way Atticus sees Calpurnia as part of the family. Alex cannot accept the presence of an African-American woman that transcends servitude in her home.

In the end, Scout and Jem have blossomed into young people more like their father. Although still young, they have become tolerant and accepting of all people and share their fathers discerning eye for looking deep into people before making any judgment upon them.

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