Analysis of Characters
Harper Lee depicts the concept of Marxism throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, which the society of its characters is divided into two classes: rich and poor. For example, in the novel, characterizations of Finches, Cunninghams, and Tom Robinson are utilized to represent different social classes. The author also portrays interactions and conflicts between different social classes and how classes are also affected by racism.
Being an educated renowned lawyer in Maycomb Town during Great Depression Era, Atticus belongs to the upper middle class since he can pay for living expenses and also for what he and his family need to live comfortably. To be more specific, the upper middle class is characterized by consisting well-educated professionals who have sufficient personal income like Atticus since he is a lawyer. Even though Atticus is a character during the Great Depression, he is not directly affected by the financial struggle since he does not physically work but rather relies on the cheap labor around him, such as Cunningham who is a farmer, to enrich his family. Scout reveals what Atticus does by saying, “He doesn’t do anything. Atticus doesn’t drive a dump truck for the county, he isn’t sheriff, doesn’t farm or work in a garage or anything worth mentioning…’ (Lee 78). This shows that most people in Maycomb Town labored while Atticus did not, but he did his job in different way. Therefore, he was economically more advantaged than poor whites.
Cunninghams are the victims of Great Depression Era who belong to the working class. The working class is characterized by low average income, unemployment, and a job that requires a physical labor. Scout asks, “Are we poor as Cunninghams...?, but Atticus replies, “not exactly” (Lee 25). This demonstrates that everyone is poor in a way that they all live through Depression Era, but working labor forces, such as Cunninghams, are the one who is heavily affected by the country's financial struggle. Moreover, they are unable to pay back their loans in cash to Atticus but rather in crops which marks the characteristic of capitalism, which is an economic system based on private ownership of capital goods and production, with services of profit. The Cunninghams have to pay the debts through the farm produce because according to what Cunningham says, “I’d like to pay cash for you services but between the mortgage and the entailment…” (Lee 28). As a result, Cunninghams did not have any income or profit as money since they were not able to produce crops and sell them because of negative impact of dustbowl.
Tom Robinson is another character to demonstrate how racism during 1930s influenced the distinction of social classes. In the novel, Tom Robinson is a labor worker like Cunninghams. However, according to the perspective of Maycomb people, Cunninghams are regarded as higher class than Tom since prejudice against black people made white people to think that they were superior to African Americans. Also, conflict between different social classes was shown through Tom Robinson. Bob Ewell tried to accuse Tom Robinson unjustly to hide Mayella’s action since it was considered a shame to a white woman. Atticus described Bob Ewell's behavior as, “There’s nothing more sickening to me than low-grade white man who’ll take advantage of Negro’s ignorance. Don’t fool yourselves-it’s all adding up and one of these days...” (Lee 296). That is, Bob Ewell tried to abuse the prejudice of Maycomb people to win the trial. Finally, Bob Ewell has privilege of taking advantage of the government by getting financial support. On the other hand, Tom Robinson does not get any backup even though he works with his wounded hand while Bob Ewell just misuses the government’s money.