How far do you think Harper Lee has effectively shown social class and
family groups to be important at that time?
The rigid class structure and social stratification of Maycomb County
had a profound effect on the events in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee. The impact of this class structure was especially
evident in the trial of Tom Robins on, a Maycomb Negro. The extreme
prejudice of the town eventually led to the unjust conviction of
Robinson for a crime he did not commit. Family groups were also seen
to be important. This is evident when a fire breaks out in Maycomb and
the whole community comes together, just like one big family. They put
all their differences aside in order to help one of the much loved
citizens of Maycomb, Miss Maudie. However, when there is no uproar or
unusual circumstances, the people of Maycomb County tend to stick to
their own morals and own ways of life.
The society of Maycomb County had a definite structure. This structure
contained four classes. The first and upper class consisted of
white/Caucasians who were considered "rich" in the post-depression
years. Characters who fit into this class were Atticus Finch, a
well-off, highly respected lawyer and citizen in town, and Judge
Taylor, the justice of Maycomb County and judge at the Robinson trial.
Other character’s who belonged to this upper class were Miss Maudie
Atkinson, an open- minded, kind woman, and Miss Stephanie Crawford,
the renowned gossip of the town.
The second class in Maycomb County included the lower class, white
workers, and primarily farmers who struggled to make ends meet. The
Cunninghams, Dolphus Raymond, and the mysterious Radley family
represented this group. The third class of Maycomb County was the "
white trash". The Ewells, who lived at the dump, and relied on welfare
for survival, were members of this group. It is important to note that
the difference between the second and third class was not a financial
one. Both were "poor". The difference, however, was in the way they
interacted in the society. The Cunninghams, unlike the Ewells, refused
to accept any kind of charity and paid back their debts with what
little they had. The Cunninghams were also different from the Ewells
because they did not take advantage of Negroes.
The fourth and lowest class in Maycomb was best described as a "caste"
because it was impossible to escape from it. All blacks were included
in this group. Prejudice ran deep in Maycomb County. Although many
classes existed within the black community, one of colour must always
be in the lowest class. The majority of the black people had very
little money, which is obviously a great contrast from people such as
Atticus Finch. The blacks lived apart from the whites in their own
section of town and seemed to have a society separate from the whites.
Reasons for this conflict could be because of the matters that
occurred during the American Civil War.