In addition to a biting analysis of race relations, To Kill A Mockingbird is also a story about Scout's maturation. Coming-of-age stories are also known as members of the genre Bildungsroman , which tends to depict main characters who take large steps in personal growth due to life lessons or specific trauma. In Lee's novel, Scout Finch works to come to terms with the facts of her society, including social inequality, racial inequality, and the expectation that she act as a "proper Southern lady." Scout is a tomboy who resents efforts to alter her behavior in order to make her more socially accepted. In the 1930s, gender inequality also reigned, and women were not given equal rights. Women in the South were expected to be delicate and dainty, concepts that Scout abhors; and women were not allowed to serve on juries in Maycomb, according to the novel. Scout loves adventure and can punch as well as any boy in her class. She finds it hard to fit into the mold of a Southern lady. Miss Maudie is a strong role model for her in that Miss Maudie also defies some of their society's expectations and maintains her individuality as a Southern woman. But Scout eventually succumbs--in her own way--to social pressure.
Thomas "Tom" Robinson is an African-American who is put on trial for the rape of a white woman, Mayella Ewell. Atticus is assigned to defend him, and stands up to a lynch mob intent on exacting their own justice against him before the trial begins. Tom's left arm is crippled and useless, the result of an accident with a cotton gin when he was a child. Atticus uses this fact as the cornerstone of his defense strategy, pointing out that the nature of Mayella's facial injuries strongly suggest a left-handed assailant. Tom testifies that he had frequently helped Mayella with household chores because he felt sorry for her and the family's difficult life - a statement that shocks the all-white, male jury. Despite Atticus' skilled defense, the jury's racial prejudices lead them to find Tom guilty. Atticus plans to appeal the verdict, but before he can do so, Tom is shot and killed while trying to escape the prison where he is being held. Tom Robinson is played by Brock Peters .