Social Classes in Maycomb, to Kill a Mockingbird

Topics: Social class, White people, Sociology Pages: 5 (1984 words) Published: September 15, 2013

Even among whites, social hierarchy is evident. Each class looks down on the one below it- AS EVIDENT IN PG 249, “THERE ARE FOUR KINDS OF FOLKS IN THE WORLD..” There are many different social classes in “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The factors that separate people into these social classes are their skin color and their occupation. First social class- Respectable White-collar workers; professionals For example, Atticus, Scout, and Jem are part of the highest social class. They are part of this social class because Atticus is a lawyer, which makes him a highly respected person in the community. This is also one of the highest-ranking jobs in Maycomb society Scout and Jem are his children and therefore also part of this social class by birth.

Another person in this same social class is Miss Maudie Atkinson. She grew up with the Finch’s and is an old friend of theirs. She is now Atticus’s neighbor and is loved by his children. Aunt Alexandra is also part if this because she is known as the “perfect example of what a southern lady should act like.” She is part of the Finch’s family and is highly respected by the community.

Second class: The Cunninghams
Many of the class distinctions in Maycomb, Alabama are based upon family history. Some families are considered better than others. Aunt Alexandra brings this to Scout’s attention after Scout wishes to invite a Cunningham over, “The thing is, you can scrub Walter Cunningham till he shines, you can put him in shoes and a new suit, but he’ll never be like Jem” (256). Aunt Alexandra thinks this because the Finches are an old and respected family that have always been a ruling, bourgeoisie like voice in the community. The Cunninghams, on the other hand, have always been working class and inferior to Finches; and in her opinion their working class status means the two families can never be the same. She even goes so far as to label them ‘trash,’ showing just how much she believes in the Finches’ superiority, and how she looks down on them for being poor. (This opinion confuses Scout because it conflicts with her father’s opinion, “Well Jem, I don’t know--Atticus told me one time that most of this old Family stuff’s foolishness because everybody’s family’s just as old as everybody else’s” (259). Because Scout is able to hear both the ideological town view and the view of her more progressive father, her own opinion of family rank is well thought out, “Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks” (260). )

Town’s treatment of the various social classes: Regardless of Scout’s opinion the town still upholds families for generations and suppresses families for generations. It is a damaging ideological cycle that may uphold the less deserving and keep at bay those that deserve better. The Cunninghams are kept in this suppressed state by the superstructure of the town. The whole town accepts the Cunninghams for who they are, but do nothing to raise them out of their state of poverty. An example of the town’s acceptance of them is when Scout takes it upon herself to explain to a teacher, who is new in town, why Walter Cunningham will not accept the teacher’s lunch money. “Miss Caroline, he’s a Cunningham” I sat back down. “What, Jean Louise?” I thought I had made things sufficiently clear. It was clear enough to the rest of us: Walter Cunningham was sitting there lying his head off. He didn’t forget his lunch, he didn’t have any. He had none today nor would he have any tomorrow or the next day. He had probably never seen three quarters together at the same time in his life. (22) Even as school children, the Maycomb residents know the Cunninghams situation and believe it will never be changed, “not would he have any tomorrow or the next day” . The fact that it is clear to them shows just how strong the class mentality is in Maycomb: (22). The Cunninghams, as well as the rest of society, grow up believing they will always be this way,...
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