In Chapter 31 of To Kill a Mockingbird, how is empathy expressed in addition to Scout's empathy for Boo Radley?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Empathy, the sharing of someone else's feelings, is very evident in the novel's final chapter. Scout's empathy for Boo is both tender and profound as she takes his arm as a lady would take the arm of a gentleman and walks him home. Other examples of empathy are present, as well. Atticus is very aware of Scout's emotions. He knows what she has experienced on this extraordinary evening--Bob Ewell's attack, Ewell's death, and Boo's role in saving her and Jem's lives.

Atticus demonstrates his empathy for Scout's feelings. He hesitates to read her a "scary" book: "You've had enough scaring for a while." When Scout insists, Atticus reads to her:

I willed myself to stay awake, but the rain was so soft and the room was so warm and his voice was so deep and his knee was so snug that I slept.

Atticus knows Scout needs his comforting presence more than the story he reads to her. When Scout falls asleep, Atticus carries her to her room and gently tucks her into bed for the night. Before drifting off to sleep again, Scout tells her father that Boo was "real nice." Atticus responds:

Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.

With these words, Atticus expresses his empathetic view of other human beings--the ability "see" into their hearts, to "stand in [their] shoes and walk around in them."

Another significant example of empathy in the chapter is Boo's empathy for Scout and Jem. In remembering seasons past from the vantage point of the Radley porch, Scout says:

Winter, and his [Boo's] children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house . . . Summer, and he watched his children's heart break. Autumn again, and Boo's children needed him.

Although he lived the life of a recluse, Boo had observed Jem and Scout, "his children," and had empathized with their feelings throughout their experiences.

 

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