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To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Harper Lee’s character, Jean Louise (Scout) Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird learns important life lessons through observing the people in her community. She comes to understand facts about the world through her experiences with Boo Radley, a mysterious neighbor, Jack, her father’s brother, Calpernia, the family maid, Mr. Tate, the sheriff of Maycomb, Mr. Raymond, a citizen, and her father, Atticus. She learns that is it important to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’, people are not always what they seem to be, and sometimes doing the right thing is turning your head the other way. Scout’s views on the world change as she is influenced and educated by the people in her community.

As Scout gets older she realizes the significance of perceiving and accepting people as individuals. Atticus once tells 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” (40) Scout learns this though her neighbor Boo Radley. In the beginning of the book, Scout views him as a scary monster. Jem describes him as, “…about six and a half feet tall…he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch…There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time” (16) The kids based their view of Boo on stories they had heard or made up themselves. At the end of the book Scout sees Boo for the first time she says, “ I looked from his hands to his khaki pants; my eyes traveled up his thin frame…His face was as white as his hands…his cheeks were thin to hollowness…and his grey eyes were so colorless I thought he was blind. His hair…almost feathery on top of his head “ (362) Scout is surprised to find that Boo is really just a normal human after all. She walks him to his home, hands lightly clasped. As she turns to leave the Radley’s house, she stops on the porch and looks out into the street. She remembers, “ I turned to go home. Streetlights winked down the street all the way to town. I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle.” (373) Scout is realizing what her life looks like from another person’s point of view. At this time, she understands Boo more than ever. Being understanding is an amiable quality. Scout unknowingly shows this to Uncle Jack when he jumps to conclusions about Scout’s fight with Francis. He thought that Scout started it and so he punished her, but really it was Francis who provoked her. Uncle Jack didn’t listen to her when she tried to tell him what happened. She expressed to him that she thought he was unfair because he wouldn’t let her explain. Scout said later, “…in the first place you never stopped to gimme a chance to tell you my side of it - you just lit right into me…and Francis was provoking me.”(114) She went on to say that he called Atticus a ‘nigger-lover’ and claimed he was ruining the family. Scout hears Uncle Jack talking to Atticus that night, saying how she showed him that he didn’t understand children and how sorry he was for punishing her. Scout forced him to look at things from her point of view and it changes his perspective on children.

The second lesson Scout learned was that people are not always what they seem to be. One person whom Scout is surprised by, is Calpernia. Scout says, “ She had been with us ever since Jem was born, and I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember.” (7) Scout thinks she knows everything about Calpernia. She has been the Finches cook since before she was born! Yet when she goes to the colored church with Cal, she realizes something new about her. Though she is educated, when she is with other colored people she talks like them. Scout says, “ That Calpernia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she has a separate existence outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages.” (167) In this instance Calpernia is deceiving both the Finch kids and the Negroes she knows. The Finches are under the impression that Cal uses correct grammar all the time and the colored folk think that she talks like them. Calpernia is deceiving all of them in different ways. Another person deceiving the community is Mr. Dolphus Raymond. He is a white man ostracized in the town for being a drunkard and for going against society, in that he favors black women and has fathered mixed children. Mr. Raymond can be seen around town “drinking out of a sack”. Jem tells Scout and Dill, “He’s got a Co-Cola bottle full of whisky in there. That’s so’s not o upset the ladies.” (214) Everyone thinks he is always drunk and that is why he prefers black people but he told the truth to Dill and Scout when they walked out of the courtroom. He offered some of his ‘whisky’ to Dill and taking a sip Dill smiled and told Scout it was nothing but Coca-Cola. When they question him about it Mr. Raymond explains, “Some folk don’t like the way I live…I try and give ‘em a reason, you see. It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason… folks can say…He cant help himself, that’s why he lives the way he does.” (268) Scout learned that people are much more than they come across as being.

The last lesson Scout learns is that sometimes doing the right thing means turning a blind eye. Atticus uses the Ewell’s as an example while explaining this principle to her. When she asked him why the Ewells didn’t have to go to school but she did he said, “Sometimes its better to bend the law a little in special cases… In certain circumstances the common folk judiciously allow them certain privileges by the simple method of becoming blind to some of the Ewells’ activities.” (40) Atticus tells Scout how Mr. Ewell is allowed to trap out of season because what little money he has, he spends on whisky and no one is going to begrudge him game that will keep his kids from starving. (41) Another instance when the right thing is to just ignore the issue is when Boo saved the kids. Heck Tate doesn’t tell the town that Boo saved them because he knew, “All the ladies in Maycomb would be knocking on his door bringing angel food cake.”(370) Mr. Tate knew that it was the last thing that Boo could ever want. He liked being alone and separated himself from the community on purpose. Mr. Tate thought I was a sin to bring him so unwillingly into the limelight after all he had done for Atticus and so he let it go. Scout was present during this conversation and showed that she quiet agreed when she walked him to his house, went back home, and never told anyone about it. She had realized that Boo wanted to be secluded and she was ok with it.

Scout Finch learned many important lessons about life from Boo Radley, Uncle Jack, Calpernia, Mr. Raymond, Mr. Tate, and Atticus. She learned the importance of walking in someone else’s shoes and how understanding someone can affect your opinion of them. She also learned that people can be deceiving and not to trust every impression she got of someone. Lastly Scout learned that sometimes to do the right thing you must bend the law and that every rule has exceptions. Scout Finch is one of those lovable characters in literature that reminds us of what we lost when we grew up and helps us discover what it is like to be a kid again.





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Kupohunter said...
May 14, 2011 at 11:25 am
I had to read it. Loved it.
 
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