The novel To Kill A Mockingbird written by Harper Lee has several key themes: discrimination, social inequality, courage, and innocence. This book is set in the Southern United States during the 1950s. The novel revolves around the lives of Jem and Scout, two children who reside with their father, Atticus.
To begin with, discrimination is present throughout the novel. Once, Calpurnia (the cook) brought Jem and Scout to her church. As soon as they stepped in, a church member questioned Calpurnia about her intentions to bring white children to a black church. The member loudly commented: “What you up to, Miss Call?”, evidence that colored churches do not accept white people(158). Atticus' choice to defend a black man as a white lawyer is disdained upon; he and his children have to endure taunts from the neighbors and other members of the community.
Likewise, Aunt Alexandra forbids Scout to interact with Walter Cunningham, as the community views Cunninghams at the bottom of the social hierarchy. This is a perfect example of social inequality. Having to act in a ladylike manner, women did not enjoy the level of superiority men possessed. They had to act perfect and ladylike. In fact, Aunt Alexandra comments on Scout’s choice of clothing, jeering that girls cannot wear overalls.
Moreover, courage is another theme in this book. Being white, Atticus displays tremendous courage by defending a black man, as racism was extremely prominent during that time period. By confronting the men at night outside the Maycomb jail, Atticus exemplifies bravery. Though the men could easily kill him, he went unarmed. On the other hand, Bob Ewell shows cowardice, the opposite of courage. He is blaming a black man to cover up the truth. He does not want the public to know the level of intimacy he reaches with his own daughter and is instead framing Tom Robinson, taking advantage of his race.
Finally, innocence—symbolized through the mockingbird—is the third key theme. Robinson, Jem, Scout, and Dill are all mockingbird-like characters. Robinson is innocent, yet is still dragged into this case and shot with “seventeen bullet holes in him” (315). Jem, Scout, and Dill ask their father to define rape, evidence of their innocence. Furthermore, Jem and Scout do not understand the racism in their town. The young characters cannot comprehend the lasting damage racism does to communities. Jem, Scout, and Dill long to uncover the true identities of the Radleys. Oblivious to Atticus' warnings, they stalk the secretive family. Essentially, the mockingbird-like characters are naïve, harmless, and innocent.
To conclude, discrimination, social inequality, courage, and innocence are the central themes present throughout this gripping story. To Kill A Mockingbird teaches us important life lessons.