To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

  • Length: 11 pages

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In this To Kill a Mockingbird essay example, the exploration of race and family will play a role in how the characters are experienced by the reader. A look at setting, an emphasis on characters like Aunt Alexandra, will help provide the kind of context needed to explore the topic further. The topic of family is an interesting area to cover because it is a personal and private attempt of the writer to showcase feelings that he or she may not otherwise show in their own lives. Novels like To Kill a Mockingbird offer a glimpse into ideals or struggles of family for the author.


Race Relations in To Kill a Mockingbird

A Look at Jim Crow Laws in To Kill a Mockingbird

Calpurnia and Tim Robinson from To Kill a Mockingbird and Their Portrayal of the Black Community

Selected Title: The Role of Family in To Kill a Mockingbird


Race Relations

Jim Crow Laws

Good and Evil

Moral Education


I. Introduction

II. Body
1. The Great Depression
2. Race
3. Family
4. Good and Evil
5. Aunt Alexandra
III. Conclusion


Family plays an important role in the story of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Whether it is the absence of family or the bonds of family, characters tend to develop from the feelings that come from family. At a time when people experienced economic hardship and racial tension, a man by the name of Atticus Finch, tries to stand up for what he believes is right.

Essay Hook

Atticus is the lawyer of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman; and family is what keeps Atticus together during and after the aftermath of the false rape accusation.

Thesis Statement

This essay will show how the relationships between Atticus, Jem, and Scout Finch help shape the plot as well as demonstrate the resiliency of people during times of racism, economic hardship, and struggles with morality; Aunt Alexandra, the sister of Atticus Finch, will serve as the anchor for the concept of family in the novel.


The Great Depression

To Kill a Mockingbird takes places during the Great Depression from 1933 to 1935. The setting, a fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama demonstrates the effects of the Great Depression and how it affected the hardest hit among Americans, farmers. It all begins with the narrator and protagonist, Jean Louise Finch, also known as Scout. She is a six-year old girl who lives with Jeremy (Jem) her older brother, and their father Atticus. Atticus is a widowed, middle-aged lawyer who raises Jem and Scout thanks to the help of a colored maid by the name of Calpurnia. Although the family experiences difficulties growing up during a rough economic time, they manage to pull together and survive it, while letting readers get a glimpse of rural life and poverty.

A key example of poverty during the Great Depression shown in Maycomb is Atticus client. The poor farmer has no money to afford Atticus legal services and so offers him payment in the form of crops. In the first chapter, Mr. Cunningham leaves a bag of hickory nuts on the porch of the Finch property when Scout discovers him and calls him out. Later, a sack of hickory nuts appeared on the back steps. With Christmas came a crate of smilax and holly. That spring when we found a croker-sack full of turnip greens, Atticus said Mr. Cunningham had more than paid him. (Lee 32)

Scout and Jem do not understand why the farmer leaves food at their property and ask if they are poor. Atticus responds with an explanation as to why Mr. Cunningham keeps leaving food at their house and this opens the reader to the realization that the characters are living during a tough economic time. The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit them hardest. Atticus said professional people were poor because the farmers were poor. (Lee 32) The Great Depression led to many families having little to no money to feed their families or pay for services like lawyers and so forth. Lee did a great job of using Mr. Cunningham as a way to introduce poverty in the story, and the struggle she herself experienced during that time.

Another important example of poverty in the story is the characters of Bob Ewell and
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Mayella Ewell. Bob Ewell serves as the storys main antagonist. He is the town drunk and spends whatever money he gets from the government in alcohol. He is the reason for Mayellas false rape accusation against Tom Robinson. Because of the lack of contact and beauty Mayella has in her life, she decides to flirt with Tom to the rage of Bob.

When the trial commences, it is her testimony that allows for the all-white jury to condemn Robinson even with all the mounting evidence in his favor. It is here one sees the bond of family experienced by the Ewells and carried over to the Finch family. Because so many lived through economic hardship during this era, many carried their anger and rage with them, expressing it in ways that would hurt themselves or others. Bob expressed it in his drinking and Mayella in her support of her fathers false claims.

The Great Depression brought out the worse in the Ewell family. Their impoverished state leads them to make bad choices that eventually contributes to the death of Tom. However, not all families behave like the Ewells. The Finch family rise to the occasion and provide readers with a tale of morality that gives humanity hope of doing the right thing even under incredible odds. Such odds existed at that ime due to the racial tension experienced in many parts of the United States, especially in the state of Alabama.


Race played a key role in the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. Many whites that suffered during this time saw an escape goat in black people. Someone like Bob Ewell who drinks and tries to escape his existence through addiction sees a black man like Tom and decides to accuse him in the hopes of landing him in jail. Thanks to Jim Crow laws and the continued separation of blacks and whites, his accusation holds in court even with faulty evidence.

Jim Crow laws existed in the United States decades before the Great Depression. However, it was during the Great Depression that Jim Crow laws extended its reach into promoting inequality throughout the government.

Jim Crow senators and representatives ensured that racial restrictions and inequalities limited ever important government program established during the Great Depression, from the New Deal job programs to Social Security to the minimum wage legislation of 1938. Social security excluded coverage for every category of employment in which African Americans made up a significant part of the U.S. workforce. (Tischauser 84-85)

Jim Crow laws gained ground during this time and many lynchings took place harking back to the red summer of 1919. Into the early twentieth century, lynchings continued to average two to three a week with marked increases during the Red Summer race riots of 1919 and during the Great Depression. (Kirchmeier 127)

Race played such a pivotal part in the novel that even with the evidence of Tom Robinson having a mangled left arm and thus being unable to harm Mayella, the all-white jury chooses in favor of convicting him. The later shooting of Tom as he tries to escape from jail provides further proof of the level of racially based hatred in society at the time. It was only through love and family that the main characters of To Kill a Mockingbird managed to deal with such tragedy. Family provided a source of strength and stability that someone like Atticus Finch needed to continue forward.


Atticus Finch is a moral and upright man. He takes crops as payment for work he did for Mr. Cunningham. He takes up Toms case when Tom is falsely accused by Bob. He even shows appreciation for Calpurnia because she takes care of his children. All of this allows readers to see the kind of man he is and what values he strives to maintain.

These values have been passed down to his children, Jem and Scout. Scout in particular does not like seeing the racial inequalities throughout the novel. For example, during the trial, the children have to sit in the colored balcony in the courtroom. They see firsthand how their father tries in vain to convince the jury of Toms innocence. It is thanks to Atticus determination that his children witness what it is like to fight for the right thing and see someone try to obtain justice for someone.

The novel acts as a study for how Scout…

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