Harper Lee expertly incorporates a variety of themes into To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel touches upon many subjects and gives the reader a vivid image of the attitudes and actions of people living in a typical southern town during the 1930s. Among the themes presented, racism, education, and bravery stand out as the fundamental themes in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Racism is the most prominently significant theme in To Kill a Mockingbird. Prejudice was at the core of Maycomb society; the citizens" thoughts, words, and actions revolved around the idea that the white race was superior to the black. From the common use of racial slurs such as "nigger" to segregation in all public buildings, racism reared its ugly head on a daily basis in Maycomb. The most obvious display of blatant prejudice occurred during Tom Robinson's trial. Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl, was convicted by an all-white jury--despite all evidence proving his innocence--solely based on the color of his skin. What Atticus Finch calls "the evil assumption that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women" (Lee, 204) basically summarizes the attitude of the citizens of Maycomb toward a race they consider far beneath them. .
Education is also a key theme in To Kill a Mockingbird. The importance of education to the Finch family becomes apparent early on, when Jem tells Dill, "Scout's been readin" ever since she was born, and she ain't even started school yet." (Lee, 7). Atticus highly values education and has read to his children from magazines and newspapers since very early on in life. In a town where most children "had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk," (Lee, 16) Scout and Jem value literature, and Scout is already extremely literate by the time she starts school for the first time. Atticus believes that education is the key to dissolving prejudice, and in his closing statement in the Tom Robinson trial relates the aforementioned "evil assumption" (Lee, 204) to minds of an extremely low quality.