To Kill A Mockingbird
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.
The society of Maycomb County had a definite structure.
This structure contained four classes. The first and upper
class consisted of white collar 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 presiding judge
at the Robinson trial. Other characters who belonged to
this upper class were Miss Maudie At tkinson, an open-
minded, kind woman, and Miss Stephanie Crawford, the renown
gossip of the town.
The second class in Maycomb County included the blue collar
, white workers, primarily farmers who struggled to make
ends meet. The Cunninghams, Dolphus Raymond, and the
mysterious Radley family represented this group. The third
class of Ma ycomb County were 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 w ere "poor". The difference,
however, was in the way they interacted in society. The
Cunninghams, unlike the Ewells, refused to accept charity
and paid back their debts with what little they had. The
Cunninghams were also different from the Ewells because
they didn't 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
blac k community, one of color must always be in the lowest
class. The blacks lived apart from the whites in their own
section of town and seemed to have a society separate from
The strong prejudice of Maycomb County and the negative
effects of its social strata were demonstrated by the trial
of Tom Robinson. Tom was a hard-working, warm- hearted
Negro who went out of his way to be kind and helpful to
some poor whit e trash. He helped Miss Mayella because he
felt sorry for her. His major shortcoming was the fact that
he was black. Bob Ewell, a white drunk, who was an eyesore
and problem to the town, accused Robinson of raping his
daughter Mayella. Atticus Fi nch, Tom Robinson's lawyer,
made it immensely clear to the jury that Tom was innocent.
It was actually Mayella who made sexual advances towards
Tom, and as a result was beaten by her father for kissing a
black man. However, despite the obvious, und eniable facts
of the case, the all white jury found in favor of the
Ewells and sentenced Tom Robinson to death. Tom eventually
died when he was shot in an attempt to escape from prison.
In examining the case, the two lowest classes in Maycomb
were involved. It was the Ewells who were white trash
against Tom Robinson, a kind, black man. The jury's
decision proved one sad, undeniable fact-when a black man's
word went against a white man's word, the white man,
regardless of his background, would always be victorious.
Despite the jury's doubts pertaining to the Ewell's
accusations against an innocent black man, they had to find
in favor of Mayella because she was white. In spite of the
jury's knowledge of Tom Robinson's character, they could
not allow Mayella 's accusations to go unanswered. To do so
would have made the two races equal. There was no justice
or mercy for a Negro, even one as upstanding as Tom Rob
inson. Atticus may have stated this point best when
referring to the jury's decision, "They've done it before
and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when
they do it, seems that only children weep."
The strong prejudices and social strata of Maycomb County
had a negative effect on the events in the novel To Kill a
Mockingbird . This fact was evident in the trial of Tom
Robinson, an innocent black man falsely convicted of rape.
The dis appointing conclusion one draws from the novel was
that when white opposes black, white always wins
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