To Kill a Mockingbird Questions
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Confronting themes in to kill a mocking bird
One contradiction I see is that that the mob at the jail, which includes some Cunninghams, is ready to act on the tradition that all blacks are subhuman and kill Tom Robinson. Then at the trial, the jury--well, the one Cunningham member--fights to keep Tom out of the electric chair. Atticus has earned his respect and he acts on that respect, against tradition and against popular opinion.
Another contradiction is with Dolphus Raymond. Mayella Ewell risks being "hounded from our midst as unfit to live with" for tempting a Negro, while Mr. Raymond has married a Negro and is not hounded--probably because he is rich and owns a lot of land. Then again, he does feel the need to cover his "poor choice" with a pretense of alcoholism, because he is afraid of being hounded. Very sad.
One other interesting contradiction of sorts is the appearance of the Ewell home. It is terribly trashy, while the Negro cabins are "neat and snug." Still, people in Maycomb view the Ewells as better than the Negroes, simply because of their skin color.
Are these the kind of "confronting" themes you are looking for?
One theme is courage. Early, the children believe that courage = walking through a haint or touching Boo Radley's house. Later they think it's shooting a rabid dog. Finally Atticus shows them that Mrs. Dubose has the best form of courage: facing something that you know will beat you but you face it anyway and do the best you can. He then demonstrates that courage in the trial. He knows he will lose, but he tells the truth, at the risk of his reputation in the racist town.
Another theme is judging people. Maycomb has pegged every one by name: Cunningham is "a name synonymous with jackass." Blacks are inferior. Etc. Throughout the novel, Scout and Jem see that people are different and cannot be pegged. Even in the book that Atticus reads to Scout on the last night of the novel shows this--the main character is believed to have done bad things, but he turns out to be "real nice." Just like Tom Robinson, or Mrs. Dubose, or Arthur Radley, or even Sam Levi, the Jewish merchant who was threatened by the KKK.
One of my favorite themes in the novel is education. The school system is a joke. The Finch children learn more from their father than from any classroom experience. Their neighbors teach them a lot, too, both good and bad.
One more is parenting. A lot of the teasing that Scout and Jem endure comes from children who are merely parroting their parents' words. Atticus is a wonderful father, in great contrast to Bob Ewell, Dill's stepfather, or Nathan Radley Sr. Tom Robinson is shown to be a good father, while Dolphus Raymond is not exactly a good role model for his children. Aunt Alexandra has taught Francis, her grandson, some lessons about family that are not exactly what Harper Lee has in mind for decent people. Even Arthur emerges as a sort of father figure to Scout and Jem and Dill, as in the scene on the porch as Scout sees the neighborhood through Arthur's eyes and refers to "his children."
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