An unreasonable dislike of something or someone.

Types of Prejudice present in the Novel:
Class Prejudice
Racial Prejudice

Class and Family Groups (Social Status)
Maycomb is divided into clearly defined groups which characterise position and status in society. Jem recognises the class structure when he tells Scout that there are "Four kinds of folks in the world" (Pg. 249)
These are:
  • The Finches and their neighbours (The White middle class)
  • The Cunninghams (Who represent the badly hit farming community)
  • The Ewells (The lowest class of Whites)
  • The Blacks (Automatically seen as at the bottom of the social strata)
    Strata is the level or class to which people are assigned according to their social status, education, or income

The Ewells were despised by everyone in the Maycomb community as "White Trash." They would feel the threat against the Blacks. Due to the abolition of slavery shortly after the American Civil war, there was no longer a clear distinction between the lower-class Whites an the Blacks.
(The term "White Trash" was commonly used to refer to the lowest social group of Whites, typically very poor, uneducated and dirty).

Tom showed that he felt sorry for Mayella, which in the White Jury's eyes is a crime worse than rape itself. This would be seen as the lowest class citizen showing superiority towards a class above.

Aunt Alexandra won't allow Scout to bring a Cunningham, from a poor, proud and decent farming family, home to play. Nor will she allow Scout to visit Calpurnia at her home.

Racial Prejudice
Racial prejudice consumed the mob (ch.15) which wished to prevent Tom Robinson even gaining a court hearing (the basic form of Justice) It is the fiercest form of prejudice in the novel.
  • The abolition of slavery after the American Civil War had changed the legal position of Blacks in America.
  • This freedom initially made Blacks' lives much more harder. The Whites now saw the Blacks as potential competitors for jobs. (Particually in the hard years of the Economic Depession during which To Kill a Mockingbird is set.)
  • Fear and paranoia led to the belief by Whites that the Blacks desired all that the Whites had, including their women.

Other examples of racial prejudice:
(Apart from the case of Tom Robinson)
  • Aunt Alexandra's attitude to Calpurnia.
  • The Missionary tea ladies' comments about the Blacks. (Chapter 24. "That darky's wife.." (pg 255))
  • The Black and White segregation in Maycomb.
  • Peoples' views of Dolphus Raymond, a while man living with a black woman.

Individuals who are targets for prejudice are:
  • Atticus for his defence of a black man.
  • Tom Robinson himself.

Tom is not seen as an individual by most Whites, but a part of a group.

The title of the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is a key to some themes of the novel. The title is first explained in Chapter 10, at the time that Scout and Jem Finch have just received air rifles for Christmas. Atticus tells his children that it is a sin to shoot a mockingbird. Later Miss Maudie explains to the children what Atticus meant: Mockingbirds are harmless creatures who do nothing but sing for our enjoyment. Therefore, it is very wrong to harm them.
It is easy to see that the "mockingbird" in this story is Tom Robinson- a harmless man who becomes a victim of racial prejudice. Like the mockingbird, Tom has never done wrong to anyone. Even the jurors who sentence him to death have nothing personal against him. They find him guilty mostly because they feel that to take the word of a black man over two whites would threaten the system they live under, the system of segregation. Tom himself is guilty of nothing but being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(An Essay about Prejudice in the Novel)