Inequality is a theme that runs throughout all of history. Harper Lee uses the theme of inequality in her book, To Kill a Mockingbird. Tom Robinson must deal with inequality when he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit because no one will trust a black man over a white man. The Cunningham family must face discrimination because of their lack of money. Scout even faces inequality when she tries to play with Jem and Dill. The theme of inequality is a strong one in Lee’s book, and her use of inequality doesn’t only define racism, but also discrimination based on wealth and gender.
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in Maycomb County, Alabama in the 1930s. There is a myriad of families in this small county. Blacks, farmers, businessmen, and strong single women all call Maycomb County home. The book is told from the point of view of a little girl named Jean Louise Finch, or as many of the townspeople call her, Scout. Her father, whom they call Atticus, raises her with her brother Jem. A majority of the book deals with the trial of Tom Robinson, during which Scout begins to understand that not everybody is as fair as Atticus, raised Jem and her to be.
Unquestionably, the biggest form of inequality in To Kill a Mockingbird is racism against African-Americans. Scout never discriminated against blacks like the other people in town because of her interaction with Calpurnia; however she catches her first glimpse of racism after her father decides to take the case of Tom Robinson. Classmates begin to call her father a “nigger-lover”, and even Mrs. Dubose gives her two cents to the children. When Scout tells Atticus what people have been saying to Jem and her, he responds with, "...ignorant, trashy people use it [nigger-lover] when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody."(108). He tells her that they are correct in saying that he is a nigger-lover, but that it isn’t necessarily a negative thing. He tries to love everybody, no matter his or her skin color. Later on, while visiting Calpurnia’s church in the black neighborhood, Scout sees how Calpurnia must change her accent when she’s around “her kind” and how Lula tries to stop Calpurnia from bringing white children into a black church. Scout begins to realize that people don’t always do the right thing but never truly understands why they can’t love the blacks as much as the whites.
Another way inequality shows itself in To Kill a Mockingbird is with wealth. Scout first sees the difference of wealth in Maycomb when she sees...