To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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In Chapter 3 of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells Scout that "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." What are some things Scout begins to realize?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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1. After Atticus gives Scout an important lesson on perspective, Scout takes her father's advice and applies it during several situations. Following their raid on the Radley home, Scout attempts to understand why Jem has been moody and leaves him alone. Scout says,

As Atticus had once advised me to do, I tried to climb into Jem’s skin and walk around in it: if I had gone alone to the Radley Place at two in the morning, my funeral would have been held the next afternoon. So I left Jem alone and tried not to bother him (Lee, 59).

2. During the trial, Scout exercises perspective by analyzing Mayella's life. She does not simply view Mayella as a malevolent, lying person; Scout has sympathy for her and realizes why she befriended Tom Robinson. In chapter 19, Scout says,

As Tom Robinson gave his testimony, it came to me that Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the world. She was even lonelier than Boo Radley, who had not been out of the house in twenty-five years. When Atticus asked had she any friends, she seemed not to know what he meant, then she thought he was making fun of her. She was as sad, I thought, as what Jem called a mixed child: white people wouldn’t have anything to do with her because she lived among pigs; Negroes wouldn’t have anything to do with her because she was white (Lee, 195).

3. Scout once again exercises perspective after reading Mr. Underwood's editorial regarding Tom Robinson's death. When Scout reads Mr. Underwood's comments likening Tom's death to the "senseless slaughter of songbirds," Scout fully understands why Atticus had no case. Scout mentions,

Then Mr. Underwood’s meaning became clear: Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed (Lee, 245).

4. The most significant scene that illustrates Scout applying her father's lesson concerning perspective takes place in chapter 31 at the end of the novel. Scout ends up walking back Boo Radley to his home and stands on his front porch looking out at the community. As Scout views the neighborhood from Boo Radley's perspective for the first time, she truly understands Boo as her shy, compassionate neighbor. Scout says,

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 (Lee, 283).

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Robert C. Evans eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter 3 of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells Scout that "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." Atticus tells Scout that she has now begun to come to various realizations, including the following:

  • that her teacher, Miss Caroline, had made an honest mistake in dealing with her students earlier in the day.
  • that Scout and the other students could not expect Miss Caroline

to learn all of Maycomb’s ways in one day, and we could not hold her responsible when she knew no better.

In addition, Scout learns some other lessons from her conversation with her father in Chapter 3. Such lessons include the following:

  • that poverty is part of the explanation of the irresponsible behavior of the Ewell family.
  • that the Ewells have little real desire to be educated and that because of this lack of desire, which has persisted for generations, it would be “silly” to force them to attend school.
  • that the Ewells are people who behave like animals.
  • that Scout is not an exceptional case, as the Ewells are, and that Scout must therefore go to school even though the Ewell children do not.
  • that children should not suffer because they have irresponsible parents.
  • that some people will never change their ways.
  • that compromise can sometimes be a satisfying solution to a problem.

 

 

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