To Kill a Mockingbird: Class Stucture of Maycomb County


The rigid class structure and social stratification of Maycomb
County had a profound effect on the events in the novel To Kill a
Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The impact of this class structure was
especially evident in the trial of Tom Robins on, a Maycomb Negro. The
extreme prejudice of the town eventually led to the unjust conviction of
Robinson for a crime he did not commit.

The society of Maycomb County had a definite structure. This
structure contained four classes. The first and upper class consisted of
white collar Caucasians who were considered "rich" in the post-depression
years. Characters who fit into this class were Atticus Finch, a well-off,
highly respected lawyer and citizen in town, and Judge Taylor, the justice
of Maycomb County and presiding judge at the Robinson trial. Other
characters who belonged to this upper class were Miss Maudie At tkinson,
an open- minded, kind woman, and Miss Stephanie Crawford, the renown
gossip of the town.

The second class in Maycomb County included the blue collar , white
workers, primarily farmers who struggled to make ends meet. The
Cunninghams, Dolphus Raymond, and the mysterious Radley family represented
this group. The third class of Ma ycomb County were the " white trash".
The Ewells, who lived at the dump, and relied on welfare for survival, were
members of this group. It is important to note that the difference between
the second and third class was not a financial one. Both w ere "poor".
The difference, however, was in the way they interacted in society. The
Cunninghams, unlike the Ewells, refused to accept charity and paid back
their debts with what little they had. The Cunninghams were also different
from the Ewells because they didn't take advantage of Negroes.

The fourth and lowest class in Maycomb was best described as a
"caste" because it was impossible to escape from it. All blacks were
included in this group. Prejudice ran deep in Maycomb County. Although
many classes existed within the blac k community, one of color must always
be in the lowest class. The blacks lived apart from the whites in their
own section of town and seemed to have a society separate from the whites.

The strong prejudice of Maycomb County and the negative effects of
its social strata were demonstrated by the trial of Tom Robinson. Tom was
a hard-working, warm- hearted Negro who went out of his way to be kind and
helpful to some poor whit e trash. He helped Miss Mayella because he felt
sorry for her. His major shortcoming was the fact that he was black. Bob
Ewell, a white drunk, who was an eyesore and problem to the town, accused
Robinson of raping his daughter Mayella. Atticus Fi nch, Tom Robinson's
lawyer, made it immensely clear to the jury that Tom was innocent. It was
actually Mayella who made sexual advances towards Tom, and as a result was
beaten by her father for kissing a black man. However, despite the
obvious, und eniable facts of the case, the all white jury found in favor
of the Ewells and sentenced Tom Robinson to death. Tom eventually died
when he was shot in an attempt to escape from prison.

In examining the case, the two lowest classes in Maycomb were
involved. It was the Ewells who were white trash against Tom Robinson, a
kind, black man. The jury's decision proved one sad, undeniable fact-when
a black man's word went against a white man's word, the white man,
regardless of his background, would always be victorious. Despite the
jury's doubts pertaining to the Ewell's accusations against an innocent
black man, they had to find in favor of Mayella because she was white. In
spite of the jury's knowledge of Tom Robinson's character, they could not
allow Mayella 's accusations to go unanswered. To do so would have made the
two races equal. There was no justice or mercy for a Negro, even one as
upstanding as Tom Rob inson. Atticus may have stated this point best when
referring to the jury's decision, "They've done it before and they did it
tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it, seems that only
children weep."

The strong prejudices and social strata of Maycomb County had a
negative effect on the events in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird . This
fact was evident in the trial of Tom Robinson, an innocent black man
falsely convicted of rape. The dis