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Explain how Jem and Scout learn respect in To Kill a Mockingbird.

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mpoccia | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 24, 2012 at 12:51 AM via web

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Explain how Jem and Scout learn respect in To Kill a Mockingbird.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 24, 2012 at 8:23 PM (Answer #1)

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Jem and Scout both soak up the information and life experiences of the others that they encounter in their little world of Maycomb, and their own personal character is also influenced by those around them. Scout is taught a lesson about respect early in the novel after she is rude to her house guest Walter Cunningham Jr. Calpurnia lectures her that

"... anybody sets foot in this house's yo' comp'ny, and don't you let me catch you remarkin' on their ways like you was so high and mighty!"  (Chapter 3)

Scout takes this to heart, and she eventually comes to accept Walter as a friend and possible playmate. She learns from Atticus that

"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."  (Chapter 3)

Scout practices Atticus's advice for the remainder of the story, climbing into the shoes of Mayella Ewell and Boo Radley to better understand their motives. Atticus's humility concerning his marksmanship skills impresses Jem, who decides that "Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!" The children's visit to Cal's church gives them a better understanding of the black people of Maycomb, and they are both able to see past Tom Robinson's skin color and recognize his innocence. Scout emulates Miss Maudie, who rarely lowers herself to the level of the neighborhood gossip, Miss Stephanie Crawford. Scout recognizes that Maudie is a real lady who reigns "over the street in magisterial beauty," and one who "never played cat-and-mouse with us." She is able to distinguish between real ladies like Maudie and Aunt Alexandra and the hypocritical Christian women of the missionary circle. And Scout is able to recognize the symbolic message that Atticus teaches about it being "a sin to kill a mockingbird": Scout understands how the innocence of Tom and Boo is not unlike the harmless songbird, and she pays Boo her ultimate respect when she leads him home after he saves her life.

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