In many ways, the book can be considered an education in empathy for Scout. When the story starts, she is young. At six years old, she is still very self-centered, and has not really had to look outside herself. When she starts school, she has trouble understanding where her teacher is coming from.
When Scout comes home and tells Atticus she does not want to go to school because she got in trouble for knowing how to read and write, Atticus thinks carefully before deciding how to deal with it. He finally decides it is a problem of empathy. He tells Scout she needs to learn a “simple trick” to “get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.”
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." (ch 3)
The tables are turned when Scout has an altercation with her Uncle Jack at Christmas. Jack spanks her for fighting with Francis. Scout is upset because she feels like she was treated unfairly, because Jack did not listen to her side.
Your daughter gave me my first lessons this afternoon. She said I didn't understand children much and told me why. She was quite right. (ch 9)
As Scout gets older, she begins to get wiser in the ways of the world. She begins to understand that people are going to be teasing her about her father’s defense of Tom Robinson. When Mrs. Dubose yells insults at them, Jem can’t take it anymore and destroys her flowers.
This incident is Scout’s last lesson in empathy. She had described Mrs. Dubose as “plain hell” (ch 1). She is definitely a horrible woman. However, after they go to read to her until she dies, they learn some more about her. Atticus says that Mrs. Dubose had “her own views about things” that were different from his. That did not mean she didn’t have something to teach them.
I wanted you to see something about her-I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. (ch 11)
This is Scout’s final lesson in part 1, before the trial starts. Sometimes people do not agree with us, but that does not mean we can’t learn from them.