Set in the 1930's, Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" features four main families that are text book examples of the adversities within the moral and social ladder in the "tired old town" of Maycomb Alabama. These differences within their backgrounds has an effect on their use of language and the ways in which they interact with one another and their surrounding society. Harper Lee's clever use of language serves as a means of revealing the differences between families, creating atmosphere giving the reader a sense of authenticity and a way of enhancing and supporting key themes such as racial injustice and inequality.
In this essay, I will explore the ways in which family relationships are presented, specifically within the Cunningham, the Radley and Ewell families and will refer to the language devices and techniques used to explore theses relationships.
The evidently troubled Ewell family "lived as guests of the county in prosperity as well as in the depths of a depression" as a result of the Wall Street crash in 1929. They are illustrated to be severely disadvantaged - mentally and physically- by their "congenital defects" and suffer at the hands of "the diseases indigenous to filthy surroundings" as established by Scout's humorous and ironic first person narrative. This morbid description of the Ewells allows the reader to sympathise with the family as they must live with their grim afflictions induced by poverty.
However, the sympathy gained by the family is tainted by the actions of their father, Bob Ewell. Scout utilises metaphorical language and similes to construct an account of Bob Ewell as being an arrogant and careless "redneck". His nature is clarified in Tom Robinson's trial when Scout narrates him to be "a little bantam cock of a man" transforming the sympathy of the reader to disgust of the Ewells and their undeniably unsettled family affiliation.