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Another thing that struck me about the story was how sexist it was at that time. Scout had to wear a dress to school, which reminded me of my days in school. The boys, Jem and Dill, began to leave her out of their play, and she spent time with Miss Maudie. As she and Miss Maudie talked, the role of women became apparent. Aunt Alexandra was also there to teach Scout how to be a lady since she had no mother. Thank heavens such role "instillment " is not as common today!
I would add on to one aspect of family in the discussion by mwestwood. I'm always struck by the dramatic change in Alexandra regarding Atticus and his position on this court case. Over the Christmas visit, Aunt Alexandra is clearly not in favor of what her brother is doing. In fact, it's her comment, repeated by her grandson, which causes Scout to get in a fist fight. Yet, when Atticus needs her, she comes. She still doesn't agree with his actual defense of Tom Robinson, but she will support him and the children the best way she knows how. At the ladies missionary tea, she even defends him to the ladies of the town alongside Miss Maudie and works in tandem with Calpurnia, someone she didn't really think was a good influence on the kids. In the end, she supports her brother despite her deep-seated racial and social prejudice. That's what family does--closes ranks when times are difficult.
One quality that permeates Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird is the strong sense of family that the Finches possess. For instance, even though Atticus is against the use of guns, he does not hesitate to shoot when his children are threatened by a rabid dog. And, even though there is danger in certain situations such as the jail scene as Atticus is approached by the angry mob, Scout loyally seeks to diffuse the situation. Likewise, Jem comes to the aid of his father when the men of Maycomb appear in the front lawn, calling to Atticus that the phone is ringing. Even Aunt Alexandra, who disapproves of her brother's having accepted the position as defender of Tom Robinson, displays her love and loyalty to her brother against the railings of others as she appreciates Miss Maudie's sarcastic comment to Mrs. Merriweather and as she worries over Atticus's mental and physical well-being. And, of course, Atticus who loves his children dearly, finally realizes that the protection of them overrides his idealistic sense of justice--and it takes Heck Tate to convince him--after Bob Ewell attempts to kill them.
So, while the theme of tolerance is, indeed, a major theme in Lee's novel, the idealism of this quality is tempered by common sense and the sense of self-survival and survival of one's family. This balance is one that people would do well to consider always.
I agree that your question is vague, but that also prompts great thinking sometimes.
Each time I read To Kill a Mockingbird, my students note aspects of society that reflect judgment or innocence lost.
One of the most recent insights shared with me and that I agree with deals with innocence lost.
During the trial, Scout's friend Dill was so physically hurt by what he saw happen to Tom Robinson. Today, our children aren't so hurt by the evil they see in the world. They are desensitized to it because they see violence and evil on TV and in their video games. They play in a world of crime for fun. Bullying in schools has lead to deaths, but this doesn't seem to matter. If our children could be more like Dill, maybe they'd grow up with real consciences and real compassion. I fear what growing up without either is doing to this generation.
Upon having a discussion with Dolphus Raymond, the man who pretends to be drunk so people can think his lifestlye is okay, the kids learn another stunning reality that applies today. People change who they are to be accepted by society. This is a time-honored element of human nature that just doesn't cease. Everyone wants to be liked, but what lengths should we go to in order to receive such acceptance?
I am not sure what you mean about "new" insights - but I certainly think that its theme of tolerance is even more important in today's world. We have had a resurgence of prejudice in the United States lately after 9/11, for example. Many people are fearful due to their ignorance about the difference between Muslims and radical Islamists. Muslims are experiencing a great deal of prejudice due to peoples' fears that every one of them might be a secret terrorist. This is fueled by actual situations (such as the recent New York City attempted subway bombing by some seemingly innocuous cab drivers from Denver, Colorado who turned out to be terrorists). I read about a Muslim doctor, in fact, who was loading some bags into his car when his neighbor came out and started staring over his shoulder suspiciously.
Also, we have a lot of problems with illegal aliens crossing the borders in states such as Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, etc., and the U.S. is constructing a border fence and recently deployed the National Guard to deal with the problem. Many people are intolerant of anyone of Hispanic origin in the state where I live (a western state) because they are always wondering, "Is this guy an illegal?" I had a woman make a prejudiced comment to me in the grocery store recently as a person in front of us paid for her groceries with food stamps of some sort. The woman whispered to me, "Huh! You and I just paid for THAT woman's grocery bill."
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