In Chapter Three of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus gave Scout advice about how to understand a person.  Later he uses similar thinking to explain Ewell's actions. Explain.

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Scout's rough first day of school, Atticus encourages his daughter to climb into someone's skin and walk around in it. Atticus's metaphor is a lesson in perspective, and he encourages Scout to look at situations from other people's point of view.

As the novel progresses and Scout matures, she develops her perspective on life. She is familiar with the Ewells' bad reputation, and Atticus explains to her why Burris Ewell continually misses school. In chapter 19, Scout demonstrates her ability to view situations from other people's point of view as she contemplates Mayella's life. After listening to Mayella's testimony, Scout begins to view her in a different light. While Tom Robinson is testifying, 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. She couldn’t live like Mr. Dolphus Raymond, who preferred the company of Negroes, because she didn’t own a riverbank and she wasn’t from a fine old family. Nobody said, “That’s just their way,” about the Ewells. Maycomb gave them Christmas baskets, welfare money, and the back of its hand. Tom Robinson was probably the only person who was ever decent to her." (195)

Scout perceives Mayella from a different perspective and sympathizes with her difficult situation. Scout views Mayella as a lonely outcast in Maycomb's society, who reached out to Tom because she desired companionship. Unfortunately, Mayella's true colors were exposed when she took advantage of Tom after her father witnessed her kissing him. Scout does not simply dismiss Mayella Ewell as white trash, but exercises empathy and tolerance after viewing the situation from Mayella's point of view. By viewing the situation from Mayella's perspective, Scout better understands her. 

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 3, Atticus says to Scout that somebody is never able to understand the actions of somebody else "until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." This is something that Atticus does throughout the book in regard to Bob Ewell, even when his own children are threatened. For example, in Chapter 27, Ewell is antagonising those around him in Maycomb and causing trouble, and in spite of Aunt Alexandria's concerns about what he might do, Atticus chooses to respond with his own advice of trying to imagine what Ewell has gone through and how he is feeling as a result:

"I think I understand," said Atticus. "It might be because he knows in his heart that very few people in Maycomb really believed his and Mayella's yarns. He thought he'd be a hero, but all he got for his pain was... was, okay, we'll convict this Negro but get back to your dump. He's had his fling with about everybody now, so he ought to be satisfied. He'll settle down when the weather changes."

Atticus therefore is a character who practices what he preaches. He tries to instil in his children that you can only fully understand somebody else when when you are able to "consider things from their point of view," and this is an approach he adopts in trying to understand why Ewell is acting in the way that he does. By seeking to discover the bigger picture and exploring the motives and reasoning behind actions, Atticus prevents himself from reacting in an emotional way to Ewell and what he does.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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