America during this time period was very segregated, especially in the South. In this book, Tom Robinson, a black man, is accused of raping Bob Ewells daughter. The reader later finds out that Tom was unjustly accused due to racism, and was still sentenced to jail because of racism. Even though black people were not seen as equals at that time, Atticus still took the case. Because Atticus was defending a black man, he was ridiculed a lot by other people in the town. People were even giving Scout and Jem a hard time about it at school. Throughout all the ridicule however, Atticus stayed by Tom to defend him because he knew it was the right thing to do.
Another way that segregation was seen throughout the book was with the Finchs housekeeper, Calpurnia. One day, Calpurnia took Scout and Jem to her church service, which was all black. The children were able to see so many cultural differences between white people and black people. First of all, they did not feel like the people at the service were very welcoming except for one of Calpurnias friends. They just felt like outcasts throughout the whole service. Secondly, they noticed that the minister was very comfortable with calling people out on their sins. During the part of the service where the minister usually names off people to pray for, the minister did that, but added what he or she did wrong so that they would feel ashamed and not do it again. Even though going t the service was an uncomfortable experience for Scout and Jem, it was a turning point in the book because the children realized that black people have their own lives and are not just a white mans slave.
What can also be seen in the book are examples of acceptable family values and structure. Because the children have no mother in the book, their Aunt Alexandra moves in. She claims to be moving in to teach Scout how to be ladylike, but she is also trying to influence Atticus on his court case with Tom Robinson. Aunt Alexandra kept telling Scout how to act properly and Scout did not appreciate it. The reader also finds out that the Finch family has lived where they live now for a few generations, as well as other members in that town. That was completely normal in that time, but it also meant that everybody knew everything about each other; it was a very close-knit community.
Since this book was published, a lot has changed. There is no longer almost total segregation in the south, and it is not a mothers or an aunts duty to teach a young girl to be lady-like. The story accurately portrayed life in the American South during the Great Depression.