“You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, social inequality is very prevalent and is what mainly characterizes the story.
This novel displays many examples of the disparity between the citizens in Maycomb County, in fact, all of the main events in the story are because of the social inequality. Throughout this novel Lee composes the social hierarchy which helps readers understand the actions of the characters. Racism is an example of the unjustness in Maycomb. The setting of the novel is right in the middle of an economic turmoil many people know as the Great Depression, which also happens to be when racism was widespread in the society. This quote from the novel is an example of racism, “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.” This quote reflects how those of color are at the bottom of the social ladder despite their desirable and intermittently advantageous qualities. Another instance of disparity in the community is between those of wealth and destitute. Being a lawyer, Atticus Finch is able to provide for his family and is relatively wealthy.
“Miss Jean Louise, you don’t know your pa’s not a run-of-the-mill man, it’ll take a few years for that to sink in…” Meanwhile, people like the Ewells and the Cunninghams who earn their living off of farming are well below the Finches. On multiple occasions the Cunninghams have paid people back with various goods and produce, “I asked Atticus if Mr. Cunningham would ever pay us. Not in money, Atticus said, but before the year’s out I’ll have been paid. You watch. We watched.
One morning Jem and I found a load of stovewood in the back yard. Later, a sack of hickory nuts appeared on the back steps.” This section from the novel displays how some people were extremely poverty-stricken due to the heavy drought during the Great Depression which in turn affected their place in the society. People were judged based off of their income, so if you were wealthy you were very well looked upon. However, if your income was low or below average you weren’t well liked.
This irrational social hierarchy seems only to exist in the adult world, but continues to be passed on through the generations. Atticus, however, does not teach Jem or Scout the significance and value of the Finch family, which allows them to grow up as open-minded, innocent children. They have been taught to welcome everyone instead of being judgemental or racist like the majority of Maycomb County. Nevertheless, Harper Lee exposes the children to the corrupt town during their discovery of Boo Radley’s rumors and Tom Robinson’s trial. Here, Scout realizes how utterly unscrupulous and wrongful the town was based on the color of someone’s skin or where they stand on the social ladder. This quote from the novel shows the social inequality in Maycomb from a child’s point of view, “If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?”The novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee showcases the true disparity and unjustness of a small town during the Great Depression era. Lee describes the layout of the unjustifiable social hierarchy in Maycomb.
This hierarchy, composed mainly based upon skin color, wealth, and family history, is needed for the reader’s comprehension of the novel. The readers are taken along with Scout and her older brother Jem as they discover this social inequality for themselves and are discouraged by the judgement passed upon innocent citizens in Maycomb. After all, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.