Maya them how to insult, criticize, and condemn.

Maya Angelou
once said, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future
and renders the present inaccessible.” Prejudice is a dark stain on our
society. Just like the spider, it makes everywhere its home. Its specialty is
creeping into a person’s mind and teaching them how to insult, criticize, and
condemn. During the 1960s, in southern society, discrimination was stronger
than ever. In her novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Lee portrays prejudice as a
contagious disease that affects Maycomb’s citizens through its numerous
branches including sexism, classism, and racism.

Lee sketches
the pervasive influence of sexism, emphasizing how older woman fortify gender
roles in the younger generation. According to Scout’s Aunt Alexandra, Scout
should be a southern lady. This means Scout shouldn’t have opinions and must be
seen and not heard. Aunt Alexandra reinforces the image of a southern lady when
she scolds Scout saying, “What are you doing in those overalls? You should be
in a dress camisole young lady.” These limited and sexist views extended from
appearance to capability, with women being seen as weaklings. This “weakness”
is used as an excuse to exclude them from decision making outside the home.
During the trial Scout mentions that, “Dill’s maleness was beginning to assert
itself,” when Dill stops himself from crying after leaving the courtroom and
talking to Mr. Raymond. This line, said by a tomboy who does not fret over her
lack of femininity, proves how such sexist beliefs affected both males and
females. Dill is not allowed the “weakness” of emotion and Scout is not allowed
the authority of decision making.

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due to the pervasive belief that women are softies, they were not allowed to
serve in politics at that time. Consequently, the jury was made up of only
white men causing poor Tom Robinson, an unfortunate, innocent, Negro, to be
sent to prison due to an accusation of rape. The fact that both Negroes and
women weren’t allowed on the jury accentuates the long-lasting inequality
between genders and races that is embedded in the highest levels of justice.
This determines Tom’s ultimate fate. Death at the hands of injustice.

the novel, Lee clarifies the social class troubles in the Maycomb society
through the lives of the lower-class citizens and the corrupt or often fatal
effects of this class division. When Scout returns to class after lunch and
notices Miss Caroline, “standing in the middle of the room, sheer horror
flooding her face,” the scandal reveals itself; a boy known as Burris Ewell has
lice, or more colloquially, “cooties.” While Miss Caroline is sickened by
Burris’ hygiene, the rest of the class does not seem perturbed. In fact, one of
the students, Little Chuck, states “There ain’t no need to fear, a cootie,
ma’am. Ain’t you ever seen one?” Scout observes Burris, describing his physical
characteristics; “his neck was dark gray, the backs of his hands were rusty, and
his fingernails were black deep into the quick.” Burris Ewell’s physical
description reveals that he must work alongside adults to earn money for his
family which indicates his low status and poor living condition. According to
Aunt Alexandra’s rigid understanding of society, this makes even the
Cunningham’s, who aren’t as poor, lesser members of the community. She
criticizes Walter’s poor living condition by telling Scout, “Because he is
trash, that’s why you can’t play with him. I’ll not have you around him,
picking up his habits and learning Lord-knows what.” The Ewell’s and
Cunningham’s, in this regard, share similarities with the African-American
community; they lack education and money and are treated as lesser citizens
because of it. Although they lack these privileges alongside the blacks, they
still hold a higher elevation in society because of their skin color, which
gives them the advantage when falsely accusing Tom Robinson with rape. It is
this power imbalance that ultimately allows them to win the court case and
causes the long-anticipated death of the poor Negro.

Last but not
least, Lee presents the most important theme in the novel to be racism through
a dramatized exploration of how it shaped life in the American south and how it
affected the “mockingbirds” of the novel. Boo, Jem, and Tom are considered as
the “mockingbirds” of the novel; they are innocents who have been injured or
destroyed through contact with evil. Though Boo didn’t face racial
discrimination due to the fact that he is white, he still faced prejudice
through the rumors thrown upon him because of never being seen by the
townspeople for a long period of time. Unlike Boo, Tom the Negro was the
subject of racial segregation in town. His “false accusation” of raping Mayella
Ewell alongside his skin color were his fate-determiners; confinement,
imprisonment, and finally death. Scout and Jem are also subjects of the town’s
evil and racist ways even at such a young age. They experience direct racism
when they visit the church with Calpurnia and when Lula, a black women who
doesn’t roll out the welcome mat for the Finch kids, tells Calpurnia, “You
ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here—they got their church, we got
our’n. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?” This scene illustrates the
ways in which the black community has been so segregated from the white
community even when it comes to religion. Whereas Scout is able to maintain her
basic faith in human nature, Jem’s faith in justice and in humanity is badly
damaged after hearing the news of Tom Robinson’s brutal death due to the
townspeople’s racist and prejudiced beliefs. Even though Atticus indisputably
proved Tom to be innocent, the jury, made up of only white men, still proved
Tom guilty due to his forsaken skin color.

In a nut
shell, Maycomb is a fictional “tired old town” in the southern United States
that Lee uses to portray the lives of Americans back in the 1960s in her
community. In her Pulitzer Prize winner novel, she sketches the image of a town
of injustice and inequality, where prejudice, specifically racism, classism and
sexism, run through people’s veins and shape their everyday life. She clarifies
her points through several incidents in the novel such as Tom’s death to show
how prejudice and especially racism can be a fate-determiner. Even nowadays,
this contagious disease is stills deeply embedded in people’s thoughts and
would never stop its hunt to destroy innocent and naïve minds, and as Judith
Light once said, “Bigotry or prejudice in any form is more than a problem; it
is a deep-seated evil within our society.”