Tags: Analysis, Atticus, bestseller, book, English Literature, GCSE, History, Jem, KJ, Lessons learnt, Plot, Racism, review, Revision, Scout, Shoes, South America, theBookGirl, TKAMB, To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is arguably the journey that Scout Finch makes growing up, which is essentially her journey of learning new values, morals and compassion through experience and practice.
Standing in a person’s shoes is one of the first things Atticus explains to Scout in the novel, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” This is said in chapter three. Atticus is explaining how the things that went wrong on her first day of school (Miss Caroline finding Scout impertinent for correcting her, speaking bluntly about the pupils and being able to read, as well as the episode with Walter Cunningham) could have been avoided or at least made better.
Despite the early introduction to this lesson, Scout doesn’t fully understand it, or at least learn it, until the very last chapter when she finally meets Boo Radley, and stands on his porch thinking about the compilation of events which make up the book, from Boo’s point of view, “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.” This shows the understanding Scout has finally had of the way people are perceived and the way they actually are. It shows that she has learnt what many people in their life never learn – to have empathy for others. This then puts Scout, still a child really, in a position where she is much wiser than many of the residents of Maycomb who did not put themselves in any of the “Mockingbirds’” shoes during the course of events of the story. If, for example, the white community had honestly put themselves in Tom Robinson’s shoes he would have been found not guilty (or at least he may have had more hope for the appeal and not tried to escape from the jail). If they had stepped in Mayella’s shoes they may have found that Bob Ewell was really the guilty one, or that her evidence really can’t be used at all against Robinson.
A significant character, who is prejudged by the children before they stepped in her shoes, is Mrs. Dubose. As a recovering drug addict she is most definitely nasty, malicious, harsh and opinionated to say the least, but the children only observe this without understanding why. During chapter eleven (the last chapter before Jem has significantly started to grow up, and possibly the catalyst for this) Jem gets fed up of the taunts Mrs. Dubose makes at him about Atticus defending Tom Robinson, amongst other things. He loses sight of his noble aim to “hold hid head high and be a gentleman” and reacts by breaking the stems of all the flowers in Mrs. Dubose’s garden. Clearly this action has its consequences and in this we see how courageous Mrs Dubose is being, trying to give up the drug straight off. If Jem had understood and thought about this before reacting to her, he would have not have been forced to read to her for this reason, and he would have felt more compassion towards her than he did.
Another case of Atticus reiterating his point about seeing things from someone else’s perspective is when Jem makes a snowman to look like Mr Avery in chapter 8. Jem is very proud with his creation, “‘It’s lovely Jem,’ I said… ‘It is, ain’t it?’ he said shyly” this shows how Jem is very pleased with the likeness of the snowman, and is looking at it from the perspective of himself, as an artist. However, when Atticus sees it he says, “‘You can’t go around making caricatures of the neighbours’” and when Jem disagrees that it is a caricature, Atticus replies, “‘Mr Avery might not think so.” Showing that Atticus always sees it from everyone’s point of view. He is tactful, complimenting Jem first, but he makes sure that Jem does sort it out before it can actually hurt Mr Avery. This shows the consistency of Atticus’ morals and of the lessons which Scout and Jem need to learn as they grow up. It also shows how Atticus is always considerate and understanding of everyone, perhaps an aspect to him which makes him such a great lawyer.
An interesting example of standing in someone’s shoes is when Boo stands in Scout’s shoes. His care and concern for her (and Jem) is evident throughout the novel, such as in chapter 8 when Boo puts a blanket around Scout, “Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn’t know it when he put the blanket around you” This shows that Boo looks after the children, and this could be interpreted as standing in Scout’s shoes as the reader can see that he is thinking what it must be like from her point of view, and then doing what he can to help her, which people who talk to her and live with her don’t think of doing. This is especially prominent in the last chapter when Scout stands on his porch and she realises how he has watched “his children” – Jem and Scout – over the course of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, Scout and Jem don’t stand in Boo’s shoes, automatically believing the gossip surrounding the Radley’s place.
Another example of standing in someone’s shoes is in chapter 12 when Jem and Scout are at Calpurnia’s church. They have the opportunity to actually stand where Cal does each week and experience a part of her life away from the white community. In this chapter they learn a lot about how the black community lives and this helps them understand the importance of Tom Robinson being found not guilty. “You all know of Brother Tom Robinson’s trouble…the collection taken up today and for the next three Sundays will go to Helen – his wife, to help her out at home.” This shows that the black community are thinking about Tom and Helen’s predicament and are stepping in their shoes and working out the best way to help them. The white community do not do this and only see Robinson as a member of the black community instead of an innocent husband and father. Here Jem and Scout also experience this community spirit and united support which is unusual to them as they are used to the white community’s gossip and scandals. This builds upon the lesson Atticus teaches them.
The white community already assume Tom Robinson is guilty, as he is black, and Helen is guilty by association, as she will not be able to get work and look after her children. If the white community were to stand in Helen’s shoes they would realise that it is not her fault even if Tom Robinson were guilty. Likewise, if the white community stood in the black community’s shoes like Jem and Scout did for the morning, they would probably have far less prejudices than they actually have.
Mayella’s shoes are never stepped in by the community. Her lies are half-swallowed even when all evidence contradicts them, but she is never pitied by anyone apart from the most compassionate characters, such as Tom Robinson, and this only angers the white community further, “You felt sorry for her? You felt sorry for her?” This shows how incredulously the statement is considered and how unexpected it is for a member of the black community (no matter who it is) to pity a member of the white community. This could be seen as Tom Robinson recognising another Mockingbird and wanting to help her, but is more likely just that Robinson is a kind and innocent character who wants to help people no matter what the risk, much like Atticus. Ironically it is partially this which finally causes Robinson’s guilty verdict.
Mayella is thought of as just “white trash” but when her shoes are actually stepped in, it can be seen that she is actually a lonely, unloved young girl who wants company and to be wanted herself. If someone had recognized this and actually acted upon it, helping her to become a distinguished lady, such as Scout will have the opportunity to become, it may have ultimately saved Tom Robinson’s life as she would not have introduced the whole problem with the “love” between the black man and white girl.
Hope this was useful
To Kill A Mockingbird Theme: Lessons Learnt – Chapter 3 April 28, 2009Posted by KJ theBookGirl in Analyse, book, GCSE, History, KJ, theBookGirl.
Tags: Analysis, book, English Literature, GCSE, Lessons learnt, review, Revision, South America, theBookGirl, Themes, TKAMB, To Kill a Mockingbird
Chapter three starts with Scout learning from Jem that she shouldn’t pick fights with people smaller than her, no matter what has provoked them “Let him go, Scout” this shows Jem’s authority and role of teacher and role model when Atticus is not present.
Scout therefore learns about consequences of her actions and that she should not harm others. She learns this in Jem inviting Walter Cunningham home for lunch in order to make up for the fight and to help him where he would otherwise go hungry, teaching Scout about being charitable whilst allowing people to maintain their pride.
Scout also learns there are different things which people know and that people can be intellectual in many ways, “Atticus greeted Walter and began a discussion about crops that neither Jem nor I could follow” This shows that Scout is continuously learning, and still ignorant of much in the world.
The next lessons Scout learns is very significant – she learns that you should always respect everybody and their ways, even if you disagree with them.
“Walter poured syrup on his vegetables and meat with a generous hand. He proabably would have poured it into his milk glass had I not asked what the sam hill he was doing…he quickly put his hands in his lap. Then he ducked his head… it was then that Calpurnia requested my presence in the kitchen.”
This is the course of action which leads Scout to realise that what she has done is wrong, and to understand the lesson.
” ‘He ain’t company, Cal, he’s just a Cunningham -‘
‘Hush your mouth. Don’t matter who they are…'”
This conversation/correction is the lesson which Scout learns, and is present throughout the book. IT doesn’t matter that Tom Robinson is black, or a lower class citizen or does things differently. He’s still a human living in the same time and place as Scout and the community she lives in, and that’s enough to qualify him for equality. Or at least this is what Atticus and the more moral citizens believe.
“Calpurnia sent me through the swinging door to the dining room with a stinging smack”
This is the consequence of Scout’s actions, and Cal’s way of ensuring she learns from it and doesn’t act so disgracefully again.
Scout then learns that Cal has much more authority than she has, and that her father is an united front with the servant.
“I…suggested that Atticus lose no time in packing her off. …Atticus’s voice was flinty. ‘I’ve no intention of getting rid of her now, or ever.We couldn’t operate a single day without Cal”
This allows the reader to notice that Atticus is equal to all, whether they work for him, or are his family, whether they are black or white. It also teaches Scout that she is not in a position to treat anyone badly, especially not the ones trying to teach her and bring her up properly.
A lesson which the reader sees demonstrated through the eyes of Scout, is that money does not qualify somebody to be desirable company.
“Little Chuck Little…didn’t know where his next meal was coming, but he was born a gentleman”
This display of manners is something which all people should aspire to possess, but is something which precious few of the character sin this book do have, and the majority of the people who DO have them are the younger generation, perhaps indicating that the jury of Robinson’s case may not have succeeded, but jurys of the future will be much more open minded.
Scout now learns that although she has flaws, her family -Atticus, Jem and Cal – all appreciate her and love her.
“Calpurnia bent down and kissed me”
This display of emotion allows Scout to remember that although things can be tough, she always has her family there to help her. This is the total opposite with the Ewell’s where the father spends his time drinking, Mayella has to be the mother figure, and none of the children get education, help, care, love or even adequet food. This may be one of the main factors which leads Mayella to cause so much trouble for Tom Robinson. She is lonely, where Scout can never be.
The next lesson learnt is arguably the key lesson in the entire book.
“You never really understand a person until you see things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”
This lesson is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and this use of apathy is what makes Atticus such a great lawyer, and what has, arguably, taught generations to acept others because they could be the same position. It teaches Scout to look past the surface and really understand who the person is and what they really are.
Scout learns next that there are people who aren’t nice,
“They were people, but they lived like animals”
This shows how people, like the Ewells, can have the opportunity to be equals in society – they are white and they have land – but they do not appreciate this and therefore should be outcasts in society. However they are still above the black community and are given special priveleges instead (they’re allowed to hunt game off season and the children only have to go to school the first day of every year, but they still get the opportunity to, unlike the black children).
Scout now learns what a compromise is,
“And agreement reached by mutual concessions… if you’ll…go to school, we’ll go on reading”
This compromise allows Scout to enjoy her hobbies, as well as teach her that although she can’t always get her way there is always something she can do to make it better.
Finally Scout learns that ignoring people can be the solution to the problem,
“Atticus said that if I paid no attention to him, Jem would come down. Atticus was right.”
This shows that Scout is slowly growing up and learning how to get along with other people. She also learns that Atticus ios wise, and his intelligence foreshadows how his morals will be right for the majority of the novel.
That’s all for chapter 3, and chapter 4 will be coming very soon.
Tags: Analysis, bestseller, book, English Literature, GCSE, History, KJ, lessons, Notes, Revision, TKAMB, To Kill a Mockingbird
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The first notable lesson that Scout learns is that school life is very different from homelife and that she has to act differently there.
The education system in Maycomb is poor, and Scout is told not to read anymore at home because the she learns is wrong. This makes Scout distraught and absolutely hate school, and leads her to find different ways to get out of going. “miss.Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me anymore, it woyuld interfere with my reading” This shows that the education system was flawed.
Scout also learns that although Miss Caroline is the authority, Scout knows more about the ways of the people in Maycomb, and also is very perceptive. This is demonstrated when Scout has to explain to Miss Caroline why Walter Cunningham cannot accept the money for his lunch.
The reader learns how Maycomb works, the way the poorer parts of soceity pay Atticus and the rules of the playground, through Scout.
This concludes the lessons learnt in the first two chapters.