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Prejudice is a real life problem in the world. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee describes the prejudices found in a small American town in the 1930’s. Race, social class, and gender are examples of prejudice.
Racial prejudice is discrimination based on the color of ones skin. An example is when Tom Robinson is convicted in his trial. Tom was convicted because he was a black man and his word was not considered as important or truthful as a white man’s word. Tom never should have been accused of the crime, but because whites do not trust blacks he was found guilty. Atticus, Tom’s attorney, recognized the system wasn’t going to change. “When it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.” (220) Another example is that blacks have to sit in a separate section of the courtroom, away from the white people. Blacks have to sit in another section because white people believe that they are superior. People of Maycomb already have blacks on a lower class than any white man just because of the color of their skin. A third example of racial prejudice is when Scout learns that blacks cannot go to a white person’s church. Whites think that they are, again, better than blacks because of their skin color. They are blinded by the opinion that blacks are not good enough to sit in the same church as themselves. Even though blacks are not allowed into a church with whites, they start their own churches to worship together. Racial prejudice is a controversial issue that adds suspense and drives the plot.
Another kind of prejudice is social prejudice. Social prejudice is discrimination based on your status in society. The town’s people are more respected and on a higher social class than a farmer because of their wealth and occupation. Both the farmer and townspeople usually work equally as hard and are both probably very respectable people, but the average townsperson is respected more because they have live in fine homes and drive nice cars. The Cunninghams and the Ewells are discriminated against because they both do not have much money. The Cunninghams and the Ewells are both farming families, but the Cunninghams are part of a higher class because the Ewells are what we would call “trash.” They do not have the same social manners and regard for society’s rules and morals. Even the children were not allowed to play with children of a lower class. Aunt Alexandra explains it to Scout when she says, “I’ll tell you why, because–he–is–trash, that’s why you can’t play with him.” (225) The black community is the lowest social class. Having black skin automatically puts them on the bottom of the class chain. Blacks were considered dirty and unsanitary; therefore, people didn?t want them next to their houses. The Ewells were probably worse people and citizens of the US than most blacks, but because the Ewells are white, they are of a higher social class. Social prejudice is wrong because of the fact that people shouldn’t be judged because of their wealth or occupation. Instead, people should be judged by the type of persons they are and how they contribute to the community.
A third type of prejudice is one that is against a person’s gender. Women the early 1900’s weren’t allowed to vote or be in a jury. They said women couldn’t be in a jury because they were considered to be too weak to hear the details of some case, and come up with an expedient conviction. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus explains this tradition when he says, “I guess it’s to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom’s. Besides, I doubt if we’d ever get a complete case tried–the ladies’d be interrupting to ask questions.” (221) Another example of prejudice against women is not allowing women to pursue certain careers. Women were thought not to be smart enough or strong enough to do some of the jobs men did. One of the main occupations of women was teaching. A third example of prejudice against women is when they have been force to follow a certain image, or “act like a lady.” Scout discovers this when Alexandra tells her that she has to wear a dress and behave in a way that Scout feels uncomfortable. Scout also is told to stop fighting and cussing and “act like a lady.” It’s unfortunate that women were underestimated by what they can do and not allowed to pursue any career they chose.
In the novel, different kinds of people come in contact with a variety of prejudice because of their race, social class, and gender. Prejudice can shield you from getting to know the real person by judging them based on their race, social class, and gender. You can call it narrow-mindedness, bigotry or intolerance. Our society has come a long way since the 1930’s, but prejudice continues to cloud our lives.