An Analysis of Empathy in To Kill a Mockingbird, a Book by Harper Lee
Climbing into someone’s shoes and walking in it can give you the power to genuinely understand a variety of people. Doing this can also help you get along with all kinds of people, opening your mind to new perspectives of life. Considering things from other people’s point of view allows you to understand why people do certain things, taking away any kind of judgement. In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus teaches us to look at other people’s perspective of things by climbing in someone else’s shoes and walking in them, allowing us to sincerely understanding their thoughts and actions.
Climbing in someone’s shoes and walking in them will give you so much power and several benefits like befriending many people, understanding their actions, and accepting them for who they are. For instance, when Scout came to Atticus to explain her daily troubles, he replied, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (pg. 39) Atticus realized that it’s not easy for someone so judgemental to understand why people do certain things, so he gives Scout a small piece of advice that will help her in the long run. He knew that the only way to be able to truly understand someone else’s choices was to view it from their perspective. For another example, when Scout dropped Boo Radley off to his house, she realized, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” (pg. 374) Using the advice Atticus gave her, Scout was able to see things from the mockingbird’s point of view and understand why it would’ve been hard for Boo if they had told the truth. She also began to become aware of the things she did indirectly to Boo during the summer, and immediately reflected upon her own actions. For the final example, after Scout met Boo Radley for the first time, Scout said to Atticus as she fell asleep, “Atticus, he was real nice,” and he replied, “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.” (pg. 376) In the end, by listening to Atticus’s advice, Scout was able to make a friend, one who seemed strange at first, but was found to be innocent and pure later on. She accepted Boo for being reclusive and stopped “putting his life’s history on display for the edification of the neighborhood” because she understood how it felt to see that from his own neighbors. Scout learned to value other people’s opinions and rituals through Atticus’s priceless advice: try to climb into someone’s shoes and walk in them.
In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus teaches his children a simple trick to understand a person’s opinions and behavior: to climb in their shoes and walk around in them. This can benefit society in many ways, including having everyone get along with each other because you see things their way. Trying to think about how they feel and what they’re going through can be a crucial factor when it comes to strong relationships and can only be achieved by putting yourself in their “shoes.” With everyone understanding each other, the world would be a whole community, living in peace. If you disagree with someone’s judgement, looking from their perspective can allow you to empathize, tolerate, and accept them.
The Courage of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“Every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one’s mine, I guess.” To Kill A Mockingbird, an award winning book by Harper Lee is about Atticus Finch, a lawyer in Maycomb, Alabama trying to defend Tom Robinson. Tom, who was accused of rape by a white woman named Mayella Ewell in the 20th century is having great difficulty in winning the case. Atticus Finch is showing great courage and confidence when he decides to help Tom Robinson with his case.
Atticus is defending Tom because he values equality and justice. He believes that everyone is equal and therefore just because Tom Robinson is black, does not mean that he should not defend him. Before the trial, Atticus states, “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason not to try to win.” Atticus is pointing out that simply because ingrained racism will probably lose them the trial, does not mean they can not do the right thing to fight for justice anyway.
Another reason why Atticus defended Tom because he wanted Jem, his son to look up to him and keep his respect for his dad. Atticus states, “Before Jem looks at anyone else, he looks at me. I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him… If I connived at something like this, frankly, I couldn’t meet his eye, and the day I can’t do that I’ll have lost him. If Atticus didn’t defend Tom, Jem would no longer have respect for his father and he wouldn’t be able to look at him in the same way.
Even though Atticus showed courage in helping Tom, people could not take a black person’s word over a white’s. It was extremely hard for the court to take Tom Robinson’s story for the truth. Atticus’ neighbor states, “… don’t see why you touched it in the first place… You’ve got everything to lose from this Atticus. I mean everything.” He is stating that Atticus has no chance in winning the case because Tom is black. Even though his neighbors didn’t support him helping Tom, he knew that it was the right thing to do.
Atticus showed great courage in doing the right thing by defending Tom because he believed everyone should be treated equally and he wanted to keep the respect of his son. Since Atticus values equality and justice, he still had the courage to defend a black man in court even if he knew that it wasn’t going to go their way. In reading the book, the reader sees how people should always be treated equally no matter the outcome and the difficulty for a black man to win a court case in the 20th century..
Similarities and Differences between the Characters of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help
Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and Skeeter from The Help both learn about the lives of people not in their own racial group, but they both have different motivations for learning. In the film The Help, Skeeter learns about the black community by interviewing black maids in Jackson for a book she is writing. Skeeter is driven to seek out black maids to interview for the purpose of hearing information about different perspectives, and to publish their experiences for the world to read. Skeeter gave black maids a chance to share their experiences because the households the maids work for take them for granted, and do not consider their feelings and perspectives. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout learns about the lives of black people in her hometown of Maycomb by interacting with them at their church. After learning that her family’s black cook Calpurnia taught her son to read, Scout says, “That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages” (Lee 167). Scout is encouraged to come to the black church with her brother by Calpurnia, but she does not go with any intent other than to spend time with Calpurnia. The questions she that asks Calpurnia about the lives of people in the black community are asked because of her naturally childish curiosity, not out of a sense of injustice like Skeeter does. Scout and Skeeter are both initially unaware of the prejudices that black people in their towns suffer because of how society treats them, until they take time to listen to the perspective of someone who is not white. While Skeeter has more influence on how blacks are viewed in Jackson by publishing their stories, Scout educating herself on the perspective of another group sets her apart from the ignorant people of Maycomb.
Aunt Alexandra from To Kill a Mockingbird and Hilly from The Help are both prejudiced, but while Hilly keeps her prejudices until the end, Aunt Alexandria eventually lets her prejudices go. When Aunt Alexandra learns that Tom Robinson has been shot dead, she says to Miss Maudie, referring to Atticus and the trial, “I can’t say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he’s my brother, and I just want to know when this will ever end. It tears him to pieces” (Lee 316). Aunt Alexandra acts like the other members of the Finch family in the beginning, as she does not support Atticus defending Tom Robinson, claiming that he has brought shame upon the Finches. While she initially comes across as an unsupportive, cold, and racist woman, her exterior breaks the moment when she learns that the man her brother failed to defend is now dead, and her hidden inner loyalty towards Atticus shows. Hilly, on the other hand, is presented as aggressively racist throughout the film, from beginning to end. An example of Hilly still being prejudiced at the end is when she storms up to Skeeter, threatening to tell her mother that she wrote The Help. Hilly is furious that a white woman like Skeeter would try to sympathize with the black community in Jackson, as she believes that black people are beneath white people. She shows her prejudices by never showing any compassion towards black people in Jackson, and she goes out of her way to make life harder for her own maids whenever possible. Ironically, Hilly doesn’t mind running charity benefits for people in Africa, but cannot even try to sympathize with the black people living in her own town. Hilly never shows any change of heart, unlike Aunt Alexandria, who eventually sees the toll the trial is taking on her brother and sympathizes with him and his cause.
Both Constantine and Calpurnia are similar because they act as mother figures towards the children they help raise. An example of Calpurnia acting as a mother towards Scout is when Jem shouts that Scout should start “being a girl and acting right”, Calpurnia comforts a crying Scout by saying “I just can’t help it if Mister Jem’s growin’ up. He’s gonna want to be off to himself a lot now, doin’ whatever boys do, so you just come right on in the kitchen when you feel lonesome. We’ll find lots of things to do in here” (Lee 154). Since Scout’s mother is dead, Calpurnia acts as the motherly figure in Scout’s life, even if she already has a family of her own. Scout is the only female in a male-dominated household, and she also happens to be the youngest. Calpurnia recognizes this, and she makes sure that she is always available to Scout whenever Atticus and Jem are not. In The Help, Constantine acts as a mother towards Skeeter, even though Skeeter’s mother is alive and well. In the film, Skeeter has a childhood flashback to when Constantine comforted her when she was not asked to a dance, and how Constantine provided her with words of encouragement. Even though Constantine is just a maid, she still feels responsibility towards Skeeter as a mother would. When she sees Skeeter in need, her motherly instincts immediately kick in, and she goes to Skeeter’s side, not intending to leave until she is sure Skeeter is comforted. Both Calpurnia and Constantine are similar because while the children they watch over are not their own, they know that they cannot bear to leave a child in distress.
Both Tom Robinson from To Kill a Mockingbird and Aibileen from The Help are similar because they are both blamed for things they did not do because of their race. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson is falsely accused and convicted of raping a white woman. When Jem complains to Atticus that it was not fair that Tom was found guilty by the jury, Atticus replies “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads- they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life” (Lee 295). Atticus is an experienced lawyer, and the evidence he presents to the court makes it clear that Tom Robinson did not rape Mayella Ewell, as he would be physically unable to. Because of social codes in 1930s Alabama, however, the white jury cannot be convinced that a black man can be innocent, and Tom Robinson is given a death sentence. In The Help, Hilly forces Elizabeth to fire Aibileen by falsely claiming that Aibileen stole some silverware. Hilly knows that no evidence would be needed to have a black person arrested for theft, especially when the alleged victim is white. Even though Aibileen evades being reported to the police by threatening to reveal Hilly as the subject of “the terrible awful”, she is still fired for something she did not do. Because of Hilly’s desire to take revenge on Aibileen contributing to The Help, Aibileen has to painfully leave behind Mae Mobley, the child she raised, to her neglectful mother. Both Aibileen and Tom suffer oppression from the racist society they live in, and because of the paradigm in their communities , neither of them get a chance to clear their rightful names.
To Kill a Mockingbird: the Character Analysis of Harper Lee’s Novel
While most people in society strive to have moral attributes, not everyone understands what traits are important in achieving this goal. Often, people attempt to model themselves after another’s example. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch is a single father who lives with his two children, Jem and Scout, in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. His young children constantly find themselves trying to keep occupied during the years that pass. One summer, Atticus, who is a lawyer, finds himself in the middle of a controversial case, involving a black man, Tom Robinson, and a white woman. Scout and Jem observe how Atticus responds to the changes the case brings to their small town which makes the children want to follow in his footsteps. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is a static character who is continually understanding, just, and honest.
Someone cannot truly call themselves a noble person if they are not able to understand others. Atticus is a character who proves noble throughout the story, leading many to respect him. Because of Atticus’ nobility, Jem and Scout are better able to comprehend the transformations in the community with unbiased eyes. “‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view’” (Lee 30). Atticus gives this advice to Scout after she has a terrible first day of school; Scout is not fond of her new teacher and is therefore refusing to go back. Atticus, who is calm and collected, tells Scout that maybe her teacher did not have a very good day either, and that Scout should put herself in Miss Caroline’s shoes before making any rash decisions. In situations like these, it is sometimes easier to learn only one side of the story, but Atticus decides to take a wider perspective. His ability to step back from situations and consider all angles of it shows how wise Atticus can truly be. Furthermore, Atticus shows his discernment when a mad dog enters into the neighborhood. “Mr. Tate almost threw the rifle at Atticus” (Lee 95). The dog is approaching when Mr. Tate, the sheriff, asks Atticus to shoot it for him. Atticus is reluctant but, instead of refusing, he swallows his pride and kills the dog for the safety of his family and friends. He recognizes that through slaying this dog, he will be keeping everyone out of harm’s way.Whether it is encouraging Scout to go back to school or shooting a rabid dog, Atticus keeps his strong sense of insightfulness and understanding throughout the novel.
A man who is just is said to be guided by reality, logic, and sprite. All of these traits apply to Atticus, especially during the time of Tom Robinson’s trial. “‘But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal…That institution, gentlemen, is a court’” (Lee 205). During his closing argument, Atticus reminds the court of how the Judicial System is supposed to work: all men, whether they are intelligent, dim-witted, legendary, or black, have the right to a fair trial. Atticus is highly aware that the court is not perfect, but all he asks of the jury is that Tom Robinson may have a fair trial. Without a fair trial, no accurate resolution can be reached. Atticus shows his fairness when he addresses the jury about why he believes Mayella is telling the story the way she is. “‘She has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with’” (Lee 203). Atticus’ perception pierces through the façade of Mayella’s story and recognizes the reason behind Mayella’s ways. He has reason to believe that her father beat her, and this is the reason she accuses Tom of rape. However, in spite of knowing this, Atticus does not think it is fair to punish Mayella—she was doing what she had to do to save herself. Mayella is only a victim and Atticus does not believe it is just to censure her for this. Atticus proves that he is just in To Kill a Mockingbird by trying to live his life truthfully, reasonably, and fairly.
Atticus’ candidness throughout the story is what keeps the surrounding characters grounded and connected to reality. “…why didn’t Atticus just say yes, you’ll go free, and leave it at that— seemed like that’d be a big comfort to Tom” (Lee 254). As a lawyer, it is Atticus’ job to defend his client, but he also must be honest with him. Miss Rachel’s cook did not comprehend why Atticus did not tell Tom they would win Tom’s case, but Atticus did not want to make a promise that he could not keep. Atticus was the only man Tom could truly trust. If Atticus made him a pledge he could not uphold, it would not only break the trust between the pair, but also Tom’s hope in becoming a free man. “‘I told him what I thought, but I couldn’t in truth say that we had more than a good chance’” (Lee 235). Atticus has only been sincere with Tom Robinson and does not sugar-coat anything for his client. He understands that during this stressful time, lies will only make the situation worse. Without the outlook of reality, the ignorance that would certainly ensue would only lead to madness. Atticus’ sincerity is what leads others to trust and respect him in To Kill a Mockingbird.
In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus is an important character who helps readers understand how to look through unprejudiced eyes. This is apparent when Atticus has the children become more sympathetic of the world around them. He is a man who does not see wrong were it does not exist. He is sincere, causing readers to not only trust what he says, but also trust his actions and advice. To be a good person, a man must have respectable characteristics even when others disapprove of them. Atticus Finch proves that even lawyers, can establish themselves to be upright and decent people.
Understanding the Meaning of the Books Mentioned in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”
In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a variety of allusions to other works of literature arise, suggesting to the adept reader their significance to the plot and in our understanding of many characters and themes. Two books of special importance, Ivanhoe and The Gray Ghost – as these two are of particular importance and are mentioned relatively more than the others, but also about other more minor books such as The Rover Boys, Tarzan, Tom Swift, Meditations of Joshua S. St. Clair, and the magazine Popular Mechanics. Tarzan, The Rover Boy, and Tom Swift are all mentioned very early in the book and all in one sentence. They are mentioned by Jean-Louise as the books they (they being Jem, Dill, and Jean) reenacted in their summer-games. All three of these books are about children growing up, a central and complex theme of Lee’s own novel.
Tarzan is about a feral child – John Clayton, the son of two marooned Englishmen – Alice and John. Clayton, is adopted by the she-ape, Kala, after his parents are killed by the king-ape Kerchak. It could be important to mention that Tarzan – the name Clayton is given by the apes – literally means “white-skin” in the apes’ language. It is this difference, between Tarzan and his adopted ape family, which drives Tarzan away. Apart from the obvious theme of growing up that is apparent in both Tarzan and To Kill a Mockingbird, there is the theme of a different appearance, ironically in Tarzan it is the white skin and in To Kill a Mockingbird it is the black skin, which drives a wedge between people. Both The Rover Boys and Tom Swift are about children thinking in a different way from adults. The Rover Boys is about a group of children – Sam, Tom, and Dick – who run around almost completely unsupervised (slightly reminiscent of Jem, Dill, and Jean) solving crimes and stopping adults acting in wrongful ways. For example in The Rover Boys in School the kids manage to get one of their father’s business enemies, and part-time criminal, Arnold Baxter arrested after he arranged for Dick’s watch – which was given to him by his father many years age – by a tramp. Tom Swift is about a young child-inventor and his tinkering and inventing his way through his father’s company Swift Construction Company. Throughout the series Tom develops inventions such as the ‘electric rifle’, a sort of Taser Gun, and the ‘photo telephone’. In my opinion both of these series are largely about the way youngsters think differently and sometimes more expansively than adults. This theme is also present in To Kill a Mockingbird where Lee stresses the point that the children, most prominently Jean and Jem, think in a more innocent, and sometimes purer way than the adults. This is displayed in the scene outside the courthouse where Mr. Dolphus Raymond is not afraid to show the children he is not in fact a drunkard but is only pretending to be one, because they can understand him.
In addition, the fact that at the end of the book, Jem is seen reading from the magazine Popular Mechanics suggests to me that he has grown up. In my opinion the fact that Lee has decided to have Jem move from a book about an entrepreneur – Tom Swift – to reading about other’s inventions in Popular Mechanics shows us that Jem has grown up, a very prominent theme in To Kill a Mockingbird, and with growing up he has lost the advantages of a child’s mind, the ability to sympathise with and understand those around him without prejudice. Ivanhoe appears in To Kill a Mockingbird as the book Jem reads to Mrs. Dubose to atone for destroying her flowers. Ivanhoe was published in the beginning of the nineteenth-century by Sir Walter Scott about England after the failed Third Crusade. The book is about Ivanhoe, a twelfth-century Englishman, who returns from a campaign in The Holy Land. During the novel, Ivanhoe’s intended is kidnapped by one of the main antagonists – Sir Brian de-Boise Gilbert. De-Boise is a corrupt Templar knight and close friend of Prince John. During a trial for the life of Ivanhoe’s intended, which is settled by a melee between Ivanhoe and de-Boise, de-Boise suffers from a heart attack and dies. The returned King Charles takes this as a sign of his guilt and Ivanhoe’s intended’s innocence. I think Lee chose this book to be read to Mrs. Dubose for a very specific reason. In my opinion, the fact that the name de-Boise is pronounced very similarly to that of Mrs. Dubose is no coincidence. I believe the reason for this is so that we, the readers, will understand what Lee’s real opinion is of Mrs. Dubose. That opinion being that even though she is portrayed as being brave and virtuous, the fact that her death is so similar to that of de-Boise’s shows that, she is in fact guilty. The fact that she died bravely does not repent for her evilness toward Jem, Jean and everyone in general. The irony of this is that while Jem is there repenting for his actions, those actions being destroying Mrs. Dubose’s flowers and Jean’s baton, Mrs. Dubose is there supposedly repenting for all her life’s meanness, but in fact just adding to it by making Jem’s and Jean’s time there awful.
The book Meditations of Joshua S. St. Clair is mentioned in To Kill a Mockingbird when it is brought in by Jean and Jem’s Aunt Alexandra as she is trying to impress upon them the importance of their family’s legacy. Throughout the book, the idea of family classification, and family legacy is very prominent. The idea of family classification is that each family has a “streak”, to put it in Aunt Alexandra’s words, or a characteristic that every member of that family display. You can see this from the beginning of the book where Jean says it is “a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings”, the Battle of Hastings being a battle that was fought between the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II and Duke William II of Normandy taking place in 1066. The family characteristics can be seen very prominently as Jean describes Walter Cunningham to Miss Caroline. As she is describing his predicament to her, she uses phrases such as “he is a Cunningham” and “The Cunningham’s Never took anything they can’t pay back”, as if all Cunningham’s acted and thought in the same way. All of this can be seen in the way Aunt Alexandra talks to Jem and Jean about their Cousin Joshua. She describes him as “a beautiful character” whereas Atticus, not such a romantic when it comes to his family legacy, had described Joshua to his children as he was – a sewer inspector who had tried to murder the president, and who had cost the family quite a lot of money after failing horrendously. I believe Harper Lee brought in the book so that we could appreciate the different approaches about family that are so prominent in the Finch family. On the one hand, you have Aunt Alexandra who romanticizes about her family’s past, all the while making it grander and more supercilious with each telling. Whereas, Atticus’s approach is based on facts. Moreover, Atticus does not feel he needs to oversell his family history or even mention it; Atticus is a man of the present not a romantic of the past.
The story of The Gray Ghost is mentioned only twice throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It is about a group of young rascals led by Hawkins who have a run-in with their old antagonist – Stoner’s Boy. At the beginning of the novel, they glimpse Stoner’s Boy, leaving their hideout in a mess and spattered in ink. Throughout the novel, the gang tries to catch Stoner’s Boy and identify him – on account if his neckerchief hiding his face. Toward the end of the novel, they do find him but realize he was not really responsible for all they had thought he had done. At the end of the novel, a gnu escapes the local zoo and chases Stoner’s Boy and his father who dies rescuing his son. It is eventually killed by an accomplice of Stoner’s. Following this traumatic experience Stoner’s Boy decides to leave for New Orleans as repentance for his misdoings. It is mentioned first at the beginning of the book, when Dill bets Jem The Gray Ghost for two Tom Swifts if he touches the Radley front door. The second appearance of the book is when Atticus is sitting beside Jem’s sickbed and he finds himself reading The Gray Ghost, when asked by Jean why he chose that specific book he replies “I don’t know… One of the few things I haven’t read.” this of course is ironic on Lee’s part as Atticus is the embodiment of The Gray Ghost’s moral – not to judge the other by his appearance but by his mettle. After Atticus finishes reading the story to Jean she tries to summarize the book, but mixes in aspects of her own adventures with Arthur Radley taking the part of Stoner’s Boy saying “when they finally saw him… he was real nice.” A description much more similar to Jean’s thoughts on Arthur than Hawkins’ on Stoner’s Boy. Atticus summarizes the moral of both stories by replying “Most people are [real nice]… when you get to know them .” Referring to the kids’ experience with Arthur Radley.
The value of adding these specific books and stories – Tom Swift, Tarzan, The Rover Boys, Ivanhoe, The Gray Ghost, Meditations of Joshua S. St. Clair and the magazine Popular Mechanics – in To Kill a Mockingbird is a much deeper understanding of the book’s morals. This is accomplished by Lee’s excellent writing techniques and the reader’s willingness to look deeper into the books’ symbolic attributes. As I have explained the meaning of Tarzan’s inclusion is to show us the irony that comes from comparing the two. Of how in both a character is persecuted for being different than his surrounding society, only in one it is a little white boy who is different than a tribe of apes and in the other it is a black man who is different than the white society. Tom Swift’s and The Rover Boys’ addition to the book is to emphasize to us the virtues of childhood. These virtues are, in Tom Swift and The Rover Boys, the ability to think in a way that adults cannot- for example, being able to solve crimes and invent groundbreaking technological advancements. These are similar virtues to the ones Lee tries to show – that children can look at the world with innocent eyes and without prejudice.
People Who Have Shaped Scout and Jem in Harper Lee’s Novel
The course of growing up is always influenced by the people around you, since the people in your environment are vital in shaping the person you will become. Harper Lee demonstrates this reality in the classic tale To Kill a Mockingbird, through the eyes of a six year-old Scout and a ten year-old Jem in the racially-tense Southern town of Maycomb during the Great Depression. Both Scout and Jem are exposed to different influences from very important people in their lives. They encountered positive and negative influences that taught them important things about the world they live in. Each influence makes Scout and Jem expand their knowledge of their surroundings and think differently about the society they live, discovering in the process how racism and social class infect the foundation of Maycomb County.
In the novel, Atticus is perhaps the most important factor in Scout and Jem’s growth and maturity. Atticus is not only their father, but also a state legislator and lawyer who sets a fine example to his children by doing what he believes is right regardless of what everyone else thinks. He also encourages his children to follow his footsteps of doing the right thing as well. An example of this is when he was speaking with Uncle Jack said that he hopes that “Jem and Scout come to me for answers come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town” (88). Atticus meant that he wanted Jem and Scout to not become ignorant and narrow minded like the rest of Maycomb. Instead, Atticus hopes that they will become more educated about their society. Atticus also hopes that they grow up to know the racial and social injustice of the home they live in. Another important example that impacted Scout and Jem the most is when he took the case to defend the Negro, Tom Robinson. During that time, Jim Crows disallowed a white man to defend a black person. The Southern philosophy was that black people were at the bottom of the social pyramid, so taking the case was not mandatory. Before Tom Robinson’s trial, Atticus explains to Jem that true courage is “when you know you’re licked before you begin” (134). Atticus knew that he wasn’t going to win the case but did it because he knew it was right. Atticus has played a major role in his children’s growth because of his noble character and what he does because of his beliefs.
Another vital influence in Jem and Scout’s lives is Atticus’ polar opposite and sister, Aunt Alexandra. When Aunt Alexandra is introduced in the novel, she is depicted as the typical “southern belle”. She demonstrates this clearly when she arrives at the Finch’s and tells Scout that “It would be best for you to have some female influence” (69). It was revealed that Aunt Alexandra wanted to change the Finch children into her own image as ladies and gentlemen when she convinced Atticus to talk to them about their upbringings and gentle breeding. The children see through this ploy, and knew immediately that Alexandra put him up to this. Such artificiality makes Aunt Alexandra a less than desirable influence on the two children.
The last and one of the most important in Scout and Jem’s life is Calpurnia. Calpurnia is a caretaker and an important member of the Finch family. In the novel, Calpurnia has helped Atticus to raise the children since their mother died when Scout was two. Unlike Aunt Alexandra, Calpurnia teaches the children to treat everybody the same, no matter what race or where they are in the social pyramid. An example that strongly backs this evidence is when Walter Cunningham was invited to dinner at the Finch’s. Scout was disgusted by Walter’s actions at the dinner table and berates him. An angry Calpurnia lectures Scout and tells her that “Don’t matter who they are… and don’t you let me catch you remarkin’ their ways like you was so high and mighty! You folks might be better… but it doesn’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin’ ‘em…” (25). Calpurnia also believes in equality and that all races can work together. Another proof of this is when she brought Scout and Jem to the Colored Church. Calpurnia had no problem bringing along another race and knew that doing so was the right thing to do, even when others didn’t. Her similarity to Atticus as a broad-minded figure made her an ideal influence for both Scout and Jem.
The events and experiences in Maycomb County did play a leading role in Scout’s and Jem’s maturity at the end of Lee’s novel. However, in a way, the direct influences of authority figures played an equally significant part as well. Atticus impacted Scout’s and Jem’s thinking and knowledge on the society. Aunt Alexandra, despite her flaws, taught them about the social pyramid and how they are expected to act and behave as the “higher class.” For her part, Calpurnia enlightened them on the racial and prejudicial laws that mark Maycomb.
Who’s Afraid of Boo Radley: an Essay on to Kill a Mockingbird
Throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout’s feelings and notions regarding Arthur “Boo” Radley change from her initial preconceived impression that he was a monster, to accepting Boo as a person and empathizing his perspective of the world. In the beginning, Scout was a victim of the neighborhood legend that Boo was a sort of baleful, strange phantom. Later on, Scout dismisses her depiction of Boo when she learns that most of the rumors were products of imagination. As a result, her feelings are altered and she gradually starts to not fear Boo. Towards the end of the novel, when Scout had matured, she accepted Boo as a person, disposed of childhood biases, and treated Boo like a friend whom she had known for years.
Scout is deeply influenced by the legend that there was a spooky menace named Boo Radley who plagues her neighborhood. Such rumors, spread by gossiping neighbors, caused Scout discomfort and prompted her to grow fearful of Boo. As Scout mentioned, “…the mere description of whom was enough to make us behave for days on end,” (Lee, 7), shows how intensely she was affected. From this, we can understand that even though she’s never interacted with Boo, she’s built a partisan towards him in which she avoids anything that has to do with him. With regard to that, it’s easy to see how Scout is being negatively swayed by the fictitious stories about Boo. This constant distress also has an effect on her day-to-day decisions. For instance, when Scout’s released from school, she “…ran by the Radley Place as fast as I [she] could…,” (Lee, 44). Here we see how her superstition-derived opinions of Boo Radley frighten her so much, that she feels the need to sprint past the Radley house to get a sense of safety from the supposed “dangers” of the Radley Place. Thus, the rumors of Boo Radley unjustly biased Scout’s opinion and feelings, in ways that sometimes affect her daily decisions.
In the middle of the novel, Scout’s fears regarding Boo slowly disappear while her interest in him remains unchanged. Scout’s curiosity leads her to Miss Maudie to discuss her thoughts about Boo. One afternoon, Scout asks Miss Maudie, “…do you think Boo Radley’s still alive?” (Lee, 57). Clearly, we can tell that Scout wanted to confirm her doubts on the rumors of Boo with Miss Maudie. From this, we can also deduce that she wants to be able to communicate and connect with Boo by mentally disproving the stories about him. As the novel progressed, Scout’s terror of Boo Radley slowly faded away but she still remained intrigued to meet him someday. An example of this was when Scout declares, “…Boo Radley was the least of our fears” (Lee, 326). From that comment, it was a clear sign that Scout was losing her prejudice towards Boo. She didn’t need to fear Boo Radley since most of the rumors were a product of neighborhood superstition. Scout’s curiosity regarding Boo led her to learn that the neighborhood rumors were all speculative fiction. This realization ultimately caused her to lose the fear of Boo Radley and to have neutral feelings about him.
During the final chapters, Boo finally becomes human to Scout when he ha saves Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell. This mysterious figure, about whom she’d heard so many legends describing him as a supernatural monster, was beside her. When she’d escorted Boo to the front porch, she “…found it incredible that he had been sitting beside me [her]…,” (Lee, 371). As he had been a legend that scared her for years, it was remarkable to have met him at long last. Finally, in the last couple pages of the novel, Scout comes to understand Boo’s perspective of the world. When Scout was standing on the Radley porch, she remarked: “…you never really know a man until you stand in his and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough,” (Lee, 374). By saying this, Scout shows that she had seen the neighborhood from Boo’s point of view. Now that Scout had accepted Boo Radley’s existence and had seen the world from his point of view, she was able to empathize Boo.
Scout’s opinion on Boo Radley matures from that of an innocent child who thought Boo was a frightening, hostile monster, into that of a near grown-up who could understand Boo’s view of the world. In the first place, Scout’s depiction of Boo was a product of speculation that was spread at school and in the neighborhood. In effect, Scout became alarmed and distressed which resulted in changes in her behavior. Continuing on, thanks to Miss Maudie, Scout learned that many of the legends of Boo Radley were false. Consequently, her fear of Boo started to fade but she remained curious about his activities and to one day meet him. Lastly, Boo finally became real to her when had come out of the shadows to rescue her and Jem. In addition, when escorted Boo to his front porch, she was able to see the world from his perspective. Scout’s newfound ability to be able to imagine an event from someone else’s point without any sort of bias ensures that she will not become jaded, even as she loses her innocence later on in life.
The Perspective in to Kill a Mockingbird: Through the Eyes of Scout
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is one of the greatest works of American literature of all time. It has been reprinted again and again, and is a staple in almost any writing or history class. There are a number of reasons why it can be argued that this novel is one of the greatest ever written, but perhaps the most compelling reason is the fact that the very mature and complex themes explored in this novel are all relayed through the eyes of a child. This very unique perspective allows the reader to see the issues of racism, justice, and identity in an entirely different way.
The story of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is told in first person by Jean Louise Finch, or “Scout”, a young girl living in Alabama during the time of the Great Depression. The nickname “Scout” is a clever indication of the perspective of the story. A scout, in essence, observes and gathers information and relays it to others. This is exactly the case with Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She relays exactly what she sees, and attempts to make sense of it all through a child’s understanding. The truly compelling factor in this is that while adults tend to “tailor” their words to fit a social form, children speak whatever they think, regardless of how it will be perceived.
The originality of “Mockingbird’s” perspective can be seen in the very first few sentences, when Scout refers to the summer her brother Jem broke his arm. One recognizes right away that if an adult were telling this story, the first few sentences would no doubt reference Tom Robinson or Bob Ewell. Children, however, have a different idea of importance and structure than adults. A child relaying an event that happened in his/her life might devote all of their description to something an adult would regard as trivial, and gloss over something an adult would deem crucial. This fact adds a certain raw honesty to the plot of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” A child is not likely to lie about events for no reason, so the reader perceives the story with an added level of credibility.
In the narration of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Scout often relates events that occur, and individuals’ reaction to them, but rarely if ever offer any analysis or reasoning for either. When describing her first day of school, Scout relates how their new teacher’s repeated attempts to educate them are thwarted, and how she ends up crying at her desk. Though Scout never says so, the reader is left to surmise that the teacher, fresh out of college, is more than likely “out of her element” in the backwoods of Alabama. This is an example of Lee’s brilliance as a writer. When every element of a story is explained explicitly, the reader is likely to become bored. When, however, certain components are not stated, but rather deduced, the reader becomes engaged. This is yet another example of the value of a child’s perspective.
Lee continually reminds us of whose perspective we are reading the story through, often in very clever and unique ways. During Tom Robinson’s trial, Scout, Jem and Dill watch on from the balcony of the courtroom, where the African American community is forced to witness the trial, segregated from their white neighbors. Because of Scout’s unique physical perspective, we realize that we are witnessing the events of the proceeding through not only from her, but also the African American’s eyes. Scout’s position is also symbolic. As a child, she looks on physically, as well as symbolically above her adult comrades, whose views are blocked by one another.
Ironically, Scout’s perspective on life and the events around her remain relatively unchanged until the end of the story, unlike many around her including Jem, Dill, Sheriff Tate, and other members of the community, who all experience some change in view at some point. Scout’s revision of perspective occurs at the tail end of “Mockingbird” when she realizes that her neighbor, “Boo” Radley is not a monster after at all, but rather a caring and mentally handicapped individual. Scout’s realization signifies that she is starting to grow up, and the ending of the story can be seen as a way to preserve the child’s perspective before it becomes an adult perspective.
Just as the opening line is crucial to setting the stage for the perspective of the story, the closing line is just as important. Scout says of her father that “he would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” This final remark, complete with improper grammar, is a final reminder that what we have read has been told through the eyes of a child: Jean Louise Finch.
Characterization of Jem the Visionary in to Kill a Mockingbird
In Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout’s (the narrator’s) older brother, Jem, plays an ironically important role. He may seem similar to other boys in Maycomb given his brotherly characteristics, but there is more to his character. Jem is a luminary to his sister. He realizes the inhumane qualities of Maycomb, and ultimately stands up for what is right, even if he is looked down upon for doing so. Undoubtedly, Jem is a paragon of tolerance whom many people should look up to, even though Lee also succeeds as presenting him as an everyday young boy.
From the beginning of the book, Jem acts as a leader figure to Scout and Dill. Jem is an affectionate and benevolent older brother and allows her to play with him. This is why Scout automatically looks up to him. For example, Jem assists them across the street (Scout and Dill) when investigating the Radley house. After Scout decided to tag along, “Jem held up the bottom wire and motioned Dill under it. I followed, and held up the wire for Jem” (Lee 69). Jem is important to Scout, and so is how well they work together. Without Jem’s major role in Scout’s life, she would not have courage and bravery. Jem and Scout live without a mother for most of their lives and though Calpurnia acts as a mother figure towards Scout, Jem is one of the most influential people in her life. Despite the fact that Jem sometimes tries to act tough and smarter than Scout, he is still a leader who provided guidance.
Jem goes through a difficult, but successful discovery while sitting through the Tom Robinson trial. For example, he does not understand the injustice of racism and realizes that his town and the people he used to look up to are guilty of this infringement. With this struggle weighing him down, Jem does not know what to believe. Atticus always lets Jem know that justice is an important quality to have, and this only makes the confusion stronger because nobody is abiding by those rules. Jem knows that Tom Robinson was innocent and after realizing that Tom was going to jail merely for being black, his perception of his community infuriates him: “Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty…” I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them” (Lee 282). Jem grew up always trusting Maycomb and its kind community, but seeing someone be accused of something they did not do because of the color of their skin makes him uneasy and ultimately deteriorates his trust in society. For instance, since the words “guilty” become “stabs,” the reader begins to recognize the pain and grief of Jem’s sudden loss of innocence.
However, Jem realizes that through the injustice, there can be good in people. Although Tom was put into jail because of racism, Jem discovers that people should still act in goodness because Atticus sets good examples before and after the trial. Throughout the story, Jem tries to listen to Atticus and hopefully even grow up with the same values as him. For example, Jem always fears being a disappointment towards Atticus and hopes to defend Atticus throughout the book given the Tom Robinson trial. After hearing many insults about his father from Mrs. Dubose, Jem decides to violate her camelia’s by cutting the tops off all of the flowers. Scout is confused by the situation. For instance, “In later years, I sometimes wondered exactly what made Jem do it, what made him break the bonds of “You just be a gentleman, son,” and the phase of self-conscious rectitude he had recently entered. Jem had probably stood as much guff about Atticus lawing for niggers as had I, and I took it for granted that he kept his temper—he had a naturally tranquil disposition and a slow fuse” (Lee 136). This situation leaves Scout in awe and her only explanation was that her brother went mad. Atticus plays a clear influential role in Jem’s life and hearing people offend his father sparked anger.
Atticus always taught Jem to act in honor and in the moment, Jem assumes he was standing up for his father. Although Jem might was looked down upon because of his delinquencies, his other qualities yielded leadership to his peers and his sister, Scout. Through his actions, Jem teaches Scout to value the good in life. He uses the importance of his father’s teachings, such as honor and justice, to make a difference in the lives of others.
The Depiction of Racism in Harper Lee’s to Kill a Mockingbird
Through viewing Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird with a Marxist lens, the reader audience can understand how race and classism create Maycomb and uphold its structure. Lee uses dialogue, connotation, descriptive language, symbolism, contrast, narrative voice and metaphor to present these ideas and advocate for reformation of Maycomb, with its caste system and racism to be broken.
By viewing the text with a Marxist lens, the racism is clear and is presented as the natural way of Maycomb. The racial bias the White American community holds against the African American community becomes evident during Tom Robinson’s trial. While both Mayella and Tom Robinson have low social standings, jury favors Mayella over Tom Robinson because he is African American. The evidence of his innocence would have been enough to acquit him if he were a White American, but because of his race he was harshly punished. This is explained through Reverend Skyes’ dialogue “I ain’t ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man”.
Moreover, the statement “Nigger always comes out in ‘em” is negatively connotative and insinuates what the general consensus is in Maycomb. The mentality that African Americans are inherently violent and dangerous is a stereotype and fear that exists among White Americans and is another reason why Mayella is favored over Tom Robinson. Atticus addresses this concern when he gives his final speech to the jury. His use of descriptive language communicates that it is an “evil assumption” to believe that all African Americans are inherently deceptive and destructive. This encourages the reader to empathize with the African Americans and positions them to understand the struggles that take place. Lee uses the characters of Judge Taylor and Atticus to demonstrate that those with power and respect in society need to be the first to instigate social change. Judge Taylor understood that the system was in dire need of reformation and used his office of power for the better by strategically appointing Atticus as Tom Robinson’s lawyer.
Though the outcome is not ideal, Lee uses symbolism to address that Tom Robinson’s case was “making a baby-step”, as the jury evaluated Tom’s case longer than they would normally do. Maycomb is upset that Atticus “defended niggers” as he would have defended a White American client, because it means African Americans are being treated on the same level as White Americans. The White American inhabitants work hard to maintain the order and status they have, as well as their racial superiority. Therefore, this shows the reader that racism exists in the town of Maycomb and helps maintain the system.