To Kill a Mockingbird Themes

"To Kill a Mockingbird" Themes

An analysis of the main themes of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Marissa L.
min read
Jan 14, 2023

To Kill a Mockingbird Themes

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was published in 1960 and became an instant classic.  Narrated by Scout, the feisty daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch, the main To Kill a Mockingbird themes of inequality, morality, and bravery make it as relatable today as it was decades ago. 


Race is one of the main themes of To Kill a Mockingbird. Tim Robinson as a black man is vilified from the beginning of the trial. Even though Atticus Finch builds a strong case for Tim Robinson the jury still finds him guilty. Just the idea of a black man being with a white woman enrages most of the locals. Even before the trial, a mob appears in front of the jail to kill Tim Robinson. When Scout and Jem visit Calpurnia’s black church, though they are treated well, they still feel prejudice against them. The book does a great job of showing how deeply racism is embedded in society with the newspaper making overtly racist comments about the trial and Aunt Alexandra telling the children not to encourage the black people. An interesting comparison made in the book is when Scout observes that the townspeople found the Nazi’s treatment of jewish people horrible but continue to persecute the African Americans in their society.



Maycomb has a strict social structure hidden behind concepts of family backgrounds. Miss Caroline Fisher, the new first-grade teacher, does not understand that Walter Cunningham’s family is poor and therefore looked down upon. Aunt Alexandra doesn't want the children to spend time with him because their family is considered trash. The Ewell family is considered lower class as well and this kind of family-based social status is prevalent in the town. Dolphus Raymond, who married a black woman automatically lost his social status and preferred to be thought of as a drunk. Through Scout and Jem's coming-of-age storyline the book explores the idea of judging people based on how they are rather than what their family background is.


The book is set in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s, a time when especially in the south, women had very specific gender roles. Earlier on in the book Scout hates being called a girl because she believes that it implies sticking with tradition and not being able to do what you want. Most of the women in the town adhere to typical female stereotypes of the time which Scout observes and comments negatively on. Aunt Alexandra serves as an example of the typical woman of the time, taking care of the household, children, and social status. It is only when Scout sees the example of Miss Maudie, who is feminine yet free, that she understands the power of femininity. By the end of the book, Scout starts to see a way of being both feminine and expressive.

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Race, social class, and sex are not the only ways equality and inequality are a theme in To Kill a Mockingbird. The entire society is affected by issues of equality including based on how long people have lived in the town as well as how much money a family has. Atticus Finch is considered such a virtuous literary figure because he rejects the inequality around him and treats people based on their character and does things just because he believes them to be right.



Innocence is one of the important themes To Kill a Mockingbird considering the second half of the book is about Tim Robinson's trial and his guilty conviction despite his innocence. A more nuanced way to explain why innocence is an important theme in the book is through the concept of the mockingbird. Atticus tells Scout and Jem that he would prefer that they use their new air guns to shoot at tin cans and not at mockingbirds because it is a sin to shoot at mockingbirds. Miss Maudie later explains to the children that mockingbirds do nothing but mind their own business and sing beautiful songs. They are pure and innocent which is why shooting at them is a sin. Tim Robinson is a mockingbird in the story, falsely accused of committing a heinous crime, he still maintains his composure at trial and tells his side of the story. He is still convicted by the jury, who essentially kill the mockingbird. Boo Radley is another human mockingbird, he is vilified by the town because of his eccentric behavior and the children find him frightening, but all he does is mind his own business and eventually saves the children from Bob Ewell’s attack. When the sheriff makes up a story to protect Boo Radley, Scout understands that to put him on trial would be to kill another mockingbird.


Ideas of morality are at the center of To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch is a highly moral person who has a strict moral code while giving others the benefit of the doubt. He believes that people have both good and bad in them. He instills these views in his children Jem and Scout, but living in Maycomb the two children have to face amoral community standards. Maycomb is a racist, prejudiced, city, and understanding that the values of their father are different and better than the townspeople’s create a lot of tension for Scout and Jem. The children get into trouble because members of the community mock them due to their father defending a black man. When Tim Robinson is convicted of a crime he clearly did not commit, Jim has an especially hard time understanding the results. It is difficult to have a higher moral standard than the people around you, but the only way to make the world better is to pull people up, not go down to their level.



Though Atticus is a lawyer and a highly moral man he understands the difference between law and justice. He agrees that Tim Robinson's conviction was not just but upholds the law and believes that they will win an appeal. This is contrasted with the townspeople’s idea of justice, to them, it is enough that a white man accused a black man of rape and they devolve into a mob to dispense their own kind of justice. Atticus believes that true social change will only happen through the legal system but also understands that there are situations where the law must be bent so that justice can prevail. He explains to Scout that Bob Ewell is allowed to hunt even when it's not hunting season because the townspeople know that his children will starve if he isn't allowed to. At the end of the book, he refuses the sheriff's fabricated story, believing that he can make a case of self-defense. When he realizes the story is for Boo Radley’s sake, someone who is innocent and shy and already vilified in the community, he agrees to go along with it because he cannot be sure how a jury would judge him. 


Though many characters exhibit bravery in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is truly a brave man. He is brave enough to take on the case of Tim Robinson, knowing not only that he will probably lose the case but also that the townspeople will hate him and his family for taking on the case. Standing up for what you think is right is one of the bravest things to do according to him. Atticus also goes to the jail alone and is willing to face down a mob by himself. The children later find out that Atticus is an excellent shot with a gun and in his youth displayed classic forms of bravery. Atticus believes that finding non-violent solutions to problems is a high form of bravery and explains this idea to Jem and Scout when the townspeople start harassing them. He also explains to the children that Mrs. Dubose is brave for trying to fight her addictions even if it makes her unpleasant at times. At the beginning of the book, the children play a game of getting as close to Boo Radley's house as possible because they are afraid of him. As the story progresses and Jim gets older his bravery increases as well as shown by him getting closer and closer to the house. Later on, though, the children realize that their fear was unwarranted and their bravery in touching the house was nothing compared to them standing up for what they believe is right.


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The townspeople of Maycomb are fearful of their traditions changing. Anything that challenges the status quo is scary, especially a case of a black man accused of rape by a white person not being convicted. The townspeople are scared of their children interacting with people that they consider lower class. They do not trust people new to the town. They are afraid to bring equality into their society. The fear of the town highlights Atticus’s bravery and serves to highlight the children's coming-of-age story. The children go from being afraid of Boo Radley's house to finally understanding the man and overcoming their fear, while also understanding that doing the right thing, especially when afraid, is the purest form of bravery. 



Scout is excited to go to school but from her very first day is disappointed with the experience. Her school and her teachers have a fixed idea of how children should be taught and she is punished for knowing more than she should because she was educated at home. As the story progresses Scott realizes that the life lessons and experiences that Atticus has given her are a much better education than what she receives at school. Despite knowing this, Atticus still insists that she goes to school because he understands the value of passing through the formal system, but continues to teach her himself, both academically and morally.


Solving problems by understanding the other person's perspective is one of the life skills that Atticus teaches his children throughout the book. He asks Jem and Scout to put themselves in the other's position whenever they have fights to try and enhance their understanding - advice that often helps. He constantly tries to think about things from other people's viewpoints so that he can understand them better and sway them to his side, both as a lawyer and as a member of the community. He helps the children understand Mrs. Dubose by insisting that they go over to read to her and get to know her for a month. Finally, at the end of the book, Scout escorts Boo Radley back to his house and when she sees the view from his porch she gains an understanding of his perspective.


Summing Up

What is the theme of To Kill a Mockingbird? There probably isn't just one answer to this question, but the major themes to Kill a Mockingbird would include inequality, bravery, morality, and perspectives. The book is multi-layered and complicated, but insightful even now almost 100 years after it was written. If you need any help with an essay about To Kill a Mockingbird themes or find essay writers online, any kind of coursework writing help, or custom essay writing, the experts at Studyfy are here for you.  Contact us today and say, "write paper for me," and we'll take care of the rest.