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Atticus's Quote

In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the protagonist Jean (Scout) Louise has a dramatic first day of school. Unfortunately, it's a little too dramatic for her. She's used to a quiet little town with familiar faces and customs older than she is. Meeting Miss Caroline, so proper and ignorant, was a rude awakening for Scout. She was scolded by Miss Caroline for a number of things no one else would think twice about. For example, she was defending a classmate, Miss Caroline took the explanation as an insult to the other student and made her stand in the corner. She was also told that she reads too well. She must stop reading outside of school. That, however, Scout would not, could not tolerate. That was how she spent time with her father every night. It was their special thing and no narrow-minded teacher was going to put and end to it!



Back at her house, Scout was completely perplexed. And it showed. For the first time since anyone could remember, Scout didn't want to read with her father after dinner. At first, Scout didn't want to tell her father what was bothering her. But she eventually gave in and told Atticus everything that had happened that day. Including her teacher forbidding them to read together. Scout's father Atticus tried to comfort his daughter. He told her “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.” Scout doesn't really understand what he means by this. How can she “climb into” someone else's skin?


Obviously Atticus doesn't mean for Scout to litteraly leave her body, kick another person out of his or her body, and take over. No! Not only would that be disturbing to infiltrate another person's body, it would also be rude and create the opposite of the desired effect. Atticus is trying to teach Scout how to make friends, not enemies. Atticus simply means for Scout to try to imagine herself as the other person. He tells her to pretend that she is the person in question. How was Miss Caroline to know that Cunningham's are dirt poor and won't accept anything they cant return in some way? How could she know that Burris Ewell was a crude boy from an uncivil family? And there was absolutely no way she, with her unorthodox teaching methods, would know what to do with knowledgable, litterate Scout. It was her first day at the school, she was new to the town, and she was young. Of course she would be confused and not know how to handle everything! Atticus isn't telling Scout to adore every person she meets, only give them a chance, respect them. Step into their skin.



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