To Kill A Mockingbird is divided into 2 parts. The first part extends from Chapter 1 to Chapter 11, and the second part from Chapter 12 to Chapter 31. Part 1 and Part 2, though connected with events and actions, have separate identities.
Part 2 is concerned mostly with Robinson’s trial and is well unified. Part 1 contains several episodes which are relevant to the issue dealt with in Part 2.
Part 2, which is longer than part 1, focuses on the novel’s main theme: racial prejudice still prevalent in the South, which denied equal status to the blacks and the whites. It entirely consists of the Tom Robinson trial. This begins from the middle of chapter 16 and ends in Chapter 21. However, reference to the case is made before and after these chapters too.
Part 1 mainly deals with the characters of Jem, Scout and Atticus, and the innocent reactions of the children to the racial prejudices prevailing in their town. Scout is surprised that Walter has learnt no table manners, yet, the fact that she has invited him for dinner exhibits her sense of equality. Jem’s admiration for his father is also depicted in the first few chapters.
The unifying element of both the parts is the unseen presence of Arthur Radley. He occupies the main interest of the children, which shifts away once the trial begins. At the end of the novel, the attention is brought back to Boo Radley, when he rescues the children from the evil clutches of Bob Ewell.
Close examination of the text reveals that Tom Robinson and Boo Radley have much in common. Both are innocent, harmless human beings, yet both are persecuted by the society: Tom for being black, and Boo for being a freak. Harper Lee shows her readers how wrong the society was by scorning such individuals.
Apart from the Tom Robinson trial and the Boo Radley encounter, the incidents in Part 1 are Miss Maudie’s house catching fire, the shooting of the rabid dog, and the children’s encounter with Mrs. Dubose.
One can notice that certain incidents and events take place in the first part to prepare the children for what is going to take place in the second part of the novel. The Ewells are introduced in the first part, so that the reader can fully comprehend the kind of people they are. This enables them to see through the act of Mayella and Bob Ewell. The typical characteristics of southern tradition and culture is also depicted in the first part, to enable the reader to understand why the Tom Robinson case was a futile one from the start. In this manner, both the parts are linked together with episodes, and one finds a structured pattern falling into place.
One can definitely remark that To Kill A Mockingbird is a well-structured, well-knit, unified novel, with both the parts skillfully interlinked through characters and events. Harper Lee has left no thread loose at the end of the novel, and each episode is written to contribute firmly to the unity of the book.
In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, various themes can be noticed, which project the intricacies in the novel. The primary theme is evidently the problem of racial prejudice. This is revealed throughout the novel at some point or the other, but is highlighted in the Tom Robinson trial.
Tom Robinson, a poor black laborer has been accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewells and is on trial. The jury consists only of whites, and though Tom’s innocence is evident, he is convicted as guilty. Thus, the reader witnesses an irrefutable instance of racial prejudice which restricts a black to clinch victory over a white, even if he is innocent. Though black slavery had been abolished, this abolition had still not been totally accepted by the whites, who could not see any equality between the whites and the blacks.
This racial prejudice taints the minds of many citizens of the town. Stephanie Crawford shows her lack of civility by passing cheap remarks over Atticus, and even Walter Cunningham, who is not much better off than the blacks, tries to harm Atticus. The children, however, in their innocence, are free from this prejudice.
Along with the theme of racial prejudice, is linked the aspect of social snobbery prevalent in the society. This snobbery does not allow Mayella Ewell, to seek companionship with anyone and so she cannot lead a normal life. This same snobbery does not allow Scout to befriend Walter Cunningham because Aunt Alexandra is conscious of the difference in class. The blacks are ostracized from mingling with the whites and are not given any educational or financial opportunities.
Atticus is the one person who deviates from this norm. He favors the blacks openly, has a black housekeeper in his house, and does not even reprimand the children for attending Calpurnia’s church. For his egalitarian outlook and his judicious actions, he faces a lot of disapproval from the community, but is undeterred in his actions.
Besides this, minor themes of morality, need for love, concern, and a sympathy for the misfits of society are also discussed. Atticus teaches his children to maintain respect for humanity and life in general. He himself never carries a gun. He instructs Jem never to shoot at a mockingbird, because they are harmless birds, which only sing to please others. Jem too has imbibed values approved by his father and does not allow Scout to torment the earthworms that he had dug out.
Dill, Boo Radley and Mayella are characters who are sorely deprived of love and affection in life, and they seek it through their actions. Scout and Jem, who have lived a life of constant affection, are able to give love to others in various ways: Scout invites Walter home, Dill is often given shelter in their house, and they even make attempts to befriend Boo Radley.
The story of the mockingbird is thematically related both to Boo and Tom. Both are inherently harmless people, innocent in their actions and only desiring to comfort those in distress. Society has committed a grave sin by harming Tom and it would have to pay for it. Fortunately, the sin of causing harm to Boo has been avoided, so there is some hope.
Childhood, and the process of development, the growth from innocence to maturity, have all been intermingled into the themes in the novel, so as to project a thematically perfect and will-tended novel, in all respects.