In the American south many years ago, the southern states fought to keep slavery legal in the civil war against the northern states, who wanted it abolished. Even though they may have lost the war, the attitudes of the people had to blacks did not change and would ensure that the more modern liberal ideas of equality between the races and equal justice would never really work, however law enforced they may have been. The fact Atticus says "we were licked a hundred years before we started" shows that it was already happening before the people of the present southern states were even born.
The background of where a person comes from can also create stereotypes and can create bad and false ideas into the minds of people who know no better. If there is no one to tell them the morally right way of acting then this is deemed as right in their eyes.
The people of Maycomb are as this, and stereotypes such as Arthur "Boo" Radley can influence children's minds to believe exactly what they have been told without having seen it for themselves.
Prejudice is the most prominent theme of this book. It is directed towards groups and individuals in the Maycomb community. Prejudice is linked with ideas of fear, superstition and injustice. The biggest causes and triggers of prejudice are the differences that are obvious in society. Maycomb has many different groupings of people and so it is easy for people to be quick to judge others. Maycomb itself was described as a character, old, worn out, insular, poor, conservative etc. The small minded nature of the people in Maycomb, if anything, encourages and generates prejudice in their town. The idea of equality in their town would be too great of a step outside...