Social Classes in To Kill a Mockingbird

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The foundation upon which a persons character is built is first and foremost their family line and upbringing. In the 1930’s during the depression the size and quality of a family tree was the main determining factor for one’s placement on the social ladder. Family is destiny in Maycomb County. While on the one hand this may be limiting, because there’s no way for a person to be different from their parents, on the other, it allows people to indulge themselves without being judged because general opinion is that they can’t help themselves. Scout narrates

…no Crawford Minds His Own Business, Every Third Merriweather Is Morbid, The Truth Is Not in the Delafields, All the Bufords Walk Like That, were simply guides to daily living: never take a check from a Delafield without a discreet call to the bank; Miss Maudie Atkinson's shoulder stoops because she was a Buford; if Mrs. Grace Merriweather sips gin out of Lydia E. Pinkham bottles it's nothing unusual – her mother did the same. (Lee 31).

Generation after generation the families of Maycomb had gained reputations for themselves that future offspring would not be able to shake. The dictum had been imprinted into the genetically code of the different families becoming part of the upbringing of future generations. Every person in Maycomb had been classified and judged based on the actions of the past generations. In Maycomb County there aren’t a lot of well educated people. Scout for example is penalized on her first day of the first grade for being able to read and write. When Scout and Jem , after having been taught by Alexandra that the background of a family member should be the sole point on which he or she is judged, they decide to try and decipher the meaning of background that is when Jem says. “’Background doesn't mean Old Family,’ said Jem. ‘I think it's how long your family's been readin' and writin'. Scout, I've studied this real hard and that's the only reason I can think of’” (Lee 226-227). Jem’s focus on literacy here may have some truth to it. Literacy means education, which means having a certain class and wealth status. There is also a pride that comes to a family who have assets that make them better than the others. Throughout the years families pass down those assets and once again it becomes part of the upbringing of the generations and gives the opportunity to be judged in a positive light.  Maycomb has a very family- based social system. Therefore when the family learns about Atticus’s defending of a Negro they all become very concerned with how the public may view the whole family. Francis one of Scout’s many cousins quotes Aunt Alexandra in saying “’Just what I said. Grandma says it's bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he's turned out a nigger-lover we'll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb agin. He's ruinin' the family, that's what he's doin’” (Lee 83). Here family becomes an excuse for telling others what to do. In all fairness there is no real reason as to why Atticus’s behaviour should reflect on the rest of his family, but once again they are in Maycomb a town that bases its social classes mainly on heritage and family line so in this setting Aunt Alexandra’s concern for the plummet of the Finches’ popularity is well founded. Family in the 1930’s was shown to be solely based on the public opinion of the individual. Your family members actions no matter from what time period became your own and you were judged accordingly. If the judgement and classifying of people based on heritage is any indication of the twisted ways of the social class system classifying by race will only further prove the way this system has negatively corrupted the people of this earth.

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Although there is an abundant diversity throughout the races of the world people of different ethnic backgrounds have always been able to socially classify one another based on race. Specifically in the 1930’s , but even long before that time period the races have been in a struggle for equality and it has caused nothing but destruction to the people of this world. Lula a character found in the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an excellent example of the awareness that people have of the segregation that takes place between the social classes.  At ...

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