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"To Kill a Mockingbird" Great Depression Essay

"To Kill a Mockingbird" Great Depression Essay

The Great Depression in 1930 happened mainly in the United States. The Great Depression was the most prominent circumstance around the world. Economic depression occurred in the United States after the crash of stock market in 1929. The story of “To Kill a Mockingbird” tells the critical conditions of American people throughout the period of depression. Lee tells about the state of prejudice, bigotry and racism in the American society during the 1930s. Considering the bad financial impacts of Great Depression on the USA during that time, President Roosevelt had to face all these problems to rescue his country from the deep depression related to the economic recession. 

The country suffered from economic depression which started in 1930s that affected the poor and the rich eventually. Through “To Kill a Mockingbird” Lee tried to express the problems that hit the American society as well as the sociological impacts during that period. Maycomb is where the story takes place and it is a symbolic place in Southern Alabama which is known for its hot weather and it is also another symbolism to the extreme poverty, prejudice and racism. Period of depression is full of corrupted circumstances such as prejudice, racism and social inequality; however, there were some good people who defend the right of blacks and justice.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" Great Depression:

The Spread of Prejudice:

Prejudice has always been seen in different forms in this world. It has been always a key factor to many struggles on earth. Prejudice means to support a group of people against another group. This is very clear in different forms in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. The use of several elements of discrimination and racism as well as classicism in the novel is an obvious and direct. Prejudice appears when people determine themselves haughty and superior than others. In other words, most American people in that period consider poor classes as low classes and do not deserve the rights to live equally. Seeing the prejudice of the upper class makes people wonder about the human nature of some people. 

According to Cottle, 2010, P. 247, those who were poor and get the chance to be from the upper class, they are expected to forget their past and start acting like those who used to see them bad and evil. It is all about the prejudice of the human race. The existence of upper class will always remain in our societies till it is end with Earth. It is a matter of instinct beyond humans’ control. The situation was a bad image of injustice and inequality on the land portrayed in the jury who convicted Tom Robinson. Although Tom was not guilty, but he was black, so the jury disregarded everything for the sake not to convict a white family members or even imprison them. The children also were present, intentionally, in order to let them know that reality and also to consider their response. According to “To Kill a Mockingbird”, justice is not a right but a privilege. Transitioning from innocence to experience is what really happened. Subthemes included also are the threats of hatred, prejudice and ignorance on the innocent people. Some people remained unarmed like Tom and Boo Radley to face evil powers of humans. Jem himself eventually, despite being very young, saw the bad side of human nature like racism during and the aftermath of the trial. Despite the conviction of Tom, Scout could remain on her faith in justice and humanity.

Racism Became a Habit:

Racism is a very wicked characteristic among human beings. Racism refers to the belief that some group members are better than others. Racism mainly means discrimination in treatment among blacks and whites. It is a central theme of the era of great depression. Racism is very consistent in the US society or might be still there until now. However, it was very imminent during the period from 1930 till 1939 until the recession period ended. In the “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Lee describes racism as a prevalent feature in the American society. “Scout,” consider Atticus as a “nigger-lover” which is only one of those terms that do not mean anything. (Lee, 1960, P. 112). 

It is very clear that Atticus is giving a lesson to Scout about how Racism works from his point of view. In the context of this conversation, the power of language is not about how shameful racism is but for setting the conditions of the debate itself. Racist people use the word nigger to formulate and present an individual who is trying to give an indication about the African Americans special weighted rights. However Atticus is pointing to another side as he is fighting to search for equality and intending to love everyone in the same level. Blacks were forced to work longer hours with extremely low wages if they ever could get hold of it. Human rights were not even existent. 

According to Ohanian, 2004, P. 782, during that time, America suffered a great recession in everything that almost killed the country with poverty and starvation. The existence of good and evil in the novel was also a remarkable thing because of the hardships of American people throughout this period. The novel could successfully touch hard points in the heart of the American society. One of these points was the moral nature of human beings to decide the good or bad sides of people. The novel gets closes to this paralyzing question of all the time by dramatizing the heroine Scout and her brother Jem when transitioning from the innocent childhood perspective into seeing the evil of the world to be a more adult aware perspective where they faced evil power represented in the Ewells. They eventually see another human side of Boo Bradley who used to be seen as an evil character despite the fact he hurts nobody but only rumor mill could haunt him with shame. Later on it was discovered that he is a good man to be a friend of Scout.

Social Inequality Was Widespread:

Social inequality during the recession of the United States could be one of the worst social impacts that could ever happen to any country. Poor became poorer and yet are socially grievance for them could be the least could be done. Social inequality in terms of poor and rich, black and white, and upper and miserable lower class. The social hierarchy of Maycomb, despite being a bad place to live in, could carry to the awfulness of social inequality and the overcomplicating lifestyle of that era. The Finches were on top of Maycomb’s social hierarchy while the country farmers who are not educated like the Cunninghams live under the townspeople. However, the blacks squat under the Ewells like enabling Bob Ewell to create his own misfortune with persecuting Tom Robinson. Socially divided U.S during that time could not do much to themselves or the world until the end of severe depression of economy and social affairs. Such case could be seen clearly in the social divisions that could make the real adult works revealed in irrational and destructive manners. For instance, Scout could not understand why her Aunt Alexandra did not allow her to consort with younger Walter. 

According to Cottle, 2010, P. 248, the Author could make use of children’s perplexity at the unhappy layering of the society of Maycomb in the analyses of the classification and racism. In other words, beyond that the prejudice of the human race is existed. Social inequality as well as domination of the high class individuals was very imminent. Discrimination and judging people were the features of that era. Unemployment was one of the clearest messages could be understood in the story. Herbert Hoover was one to be blamed for that crisis. Moreover, social classism is very clear especially when the great depression hit the U.S. The affairs and life of Negroes living in Maycomb County are legitimately forced to pay money for the church in order to have place for praying because they are not allowed to be part of the white’s church. 

Despite the sad and all-time negative aspects of the novel, Lee has been always keen on delivering a moral part of his writings in order to help the community and new generation not to do the same behaviors in case of future crisis. For Americans, the great depression was one of the many reasons that made from America a great country after all. Good and evil had some climax points between Atticus who used to represent the good while the Ewells represented the evil as they pursued an innocent man who is Tom Robinson. In regard of classism, Scout and Jem are seen to be a role model for even mature and adults because they learned how to deal with different kinds of people; the good and the bad, innocent and evil.

There Was a Scent of Morality:

There were few good people in the American society during that period. The voice of morality represented in “To Kill a Mockingbird” is seen by Atticus Finch himself who could be seen a unique member of the novel in the experience and knowledge he had in understanding the evil of human without stopping to believe in goodness of human capacity. He also figured out and spoke about his beliefs of humans have the good and evil qualities that according to situations, they usually come up. President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to solve this problem through some financial and economic amendments. His recipe to save America was to raise wages and prices. 

In order to achieve these two targets, he had to get the congress to pass some industrial and laboring polices to limit the excessive competition as well as raising the labor bargaining force. This point indicates Roosevelt’s economic theories being implemented that showed how he rescued the fate of the U.S through raising wages and prices with the policies he adopted. Two phases were conducted; the NIRA of 1933-35 and the second one was the NLRA which stands for National Labor Relations ACT. Both acts helped solving the problem on the Great Depression of America until the end of 30s of the past century. By the end of 1930s, the period of the Great Depression was over the US participation in the WWII was a key point to their overcoming the depression, which also helped them increasing the potential of their economy through industry.


To conclude, the period of the Great Depression 1930 caused the American society to live in very poor conditions and was the major reason for the spread of corruption and racism in the society. There were many ways and factors the people of the American Society during the great depression discriminated each other. The three main forms were prejudice, racism and social inequality. Southern Alabama life witnessed those three elements of prejudice where people tend to judge each other, differentiate each other based on gender, race and color. Racism was also a clear feature in the American society during the period of depression and this appeared through the poor conditions of blacks and ill-treatment from the whites to them. The rights of blacks were violated as they were working for long hours in low salaries as well as they could not get any of their legitimate rights. 

Social inequality in the American society during that period appeared through the domination of high-class people over the low-class people. American people used to judge others due to the social class factors, the color and amount of money people have. What happened in the U.S during the great depression is not only a limited edition of the Americans. 

The story of “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, is happening all the time between individuals, groups and sometimes countries hating each other for reasons, least to say, immature and convicting whole nations with human psychological illnesses of prejudice. The novel could be seen now as part of the past but the lessons given within its lines are presented all-time in different forms of life. American society could recover but yet some humans tend to remain the same after all.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" Great Depression Essay
Ali Badr
By : Ali Badr
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