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Free Study Guide-To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-Free BookNotes
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THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

Main Themes

In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, various Themes can be noticed, which project the intricacies in the novel. The primary theme is evidently the problem of racial prejudice. This is revealed throughout the novel at some point or the other, but is highlighted in the Tom Robinson trial.

Tom Robinson, a poor black laborer has been accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewells and is on trial. The jury consists only of whites, and though Tom’s innocence is evident, he is convicted as guilty. Thus, the reader witnesses an irrefutable instance of racial prejudice which restricts a black to clinch victory over a white, even if he is innocent. Though black slavery had been abolished, this abolition had still not been totally accepted by the whites, who could not see any equality between the whites and the blacks.


This racial prejudice taints the minds of many citizens of the town. Stephanie Crawford shows her lack of civility by passing cheap remarks over Atticus, and even Walter Cunningham, who is not much better off than the blacks, tries to harm Atticus. The children, however, in their innocence, are free from this prejudice.

Minor Themes

Along with the theme of racial prejudice, is linked the aspect of social snobbery prevalent in the society. This snobbery does not allow Mayella Ewell, to seek companionship with anyone and so she cannot lead a normal life. This same snobbery does not allow Scout to befriend Walter Cunningham because Aunt Alexandra is conscious of the difference in class. The blacks are ostracized from mingling with the whites and are not given any educational or financial opportunities.

Atticus is the one person who deviates from this norm. He favors the blacks openly, has a black housekeeper in his house, and does not even reprimand the children for attending Calpurnia’s church. For his egalitarian outlook and his judicious actions, he faces a lot of disapproval from the community, but is undeterred in his actions.

Besides this, minor Themes of morality, need for love, concern, and a sympathy for the misfits of society are also discussed. Atticus teaches his children to maintain respect for humanity and life in general. He himself never carries a gun. He instructs Jem never to shoot at a mockingbird, because they are harmless birds, which only sing to please others. Jem too has imbibed values approved by his father and does not allow Scout to torment the earthworms that he had dug out.

Dill, Boo Radley and Mayella are characters who are sorely deprived of love and affection in life, and they seek it through their actions. Scout and Jem, who have lived a life of constant affection, are able to give love to others in various ways: Scout invites Walter home, Dill is often given shelter in their house, and they even make attempts to befriend Boo Radley.

The story of the mockingbird is thematically related both to Boo and Tom. Both are inherently harmless people, innocent in their actions and only desiring to comfort those in distress. Society has committed a grave sin by harming Tom and it would have to pay for it. Fortunately, the sin of causing harm to Boo has been avoided, so there is some hope.

Childhood, and the process of development, the growth from innocence to maturity, have all been intermingled into the Themes in the novel, so as to project a thematically perfect and will-tended novel, in all respects.

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