What do Scout and Jem learn about prejudice from Atticus?  Is the end of the book optimistic in regard to the end of racial prejudice?In your estimation, how fully do Scout and Jem understand the...

What do Scout and Jem learn about prejudice from Atticus?  Is the end of the book optimistic in regard to the end of racial prejudice?

In your estimation, how fully do Scout and Jem understand the roots of prejudice?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the novel, Atticus teaches his children the importance of tolerance, equality, and respect. Atticus tells his children that nothing is more despicable than when a white person treats a black person unfairly. He encourages his children to respect everyone, regardless of race. He also demonstrates his tolerance and courage by defending Tom Robinson in front of an entirely white jury. Jem and Scout learn valuable lessons concerning race from their father, who embodies fairness and equality. Atticus explains to Scout why racial slurs are hurtful and describes to Jem the perception racist individuals have toward black people in Maycomb. Despite the fact that Tom Robinson becomes a victim of racial injustice, there is an optimistic atmosphere toward the end of the novel. There was an extensive deliberation between the jurors during the trial, and Atticus was chosen to defend Tom, which signifies hope for future equality. Maudie also mentions that the town was making small steps in the right direction. In regards to Jem and Scout fully understanding the roots of prejudice, one can surmise that the two children have a strong grasp on the source of prejudice throughout Maycomb. Growing up in the Deep South and being exposed to as significant an event as Tom Robinson's trial gives the children extensive insight into race relations throughout their community. 

jilllessa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout and Jem learn much about race relations from Atticus.  They see from his example that he believes that racial prejudice is wrong.  Atticus treats everyone with respect, black or white, and he does his best for Tom Robinson even knowing that he had little chance of winning the case and that his active defense was going to bring trouble for him and his children.  Scout, Jem, and the rest of the crowd in the courthouse learn more about Atticus' view of Racial Prejudice from his closing at the trial where he makes a resounding statement against racial prejudice and for Jefferson's assertion that all men are created equal.  Unfortunately, many in the jury were not ready for that message, and Robinson was convicted.

Despite Robinson's conviction and eventual murder, I believe the ending is hopeful.  Although not all are ready to admit that racial prejudice is wrong, many did support Tom Robinson including his employer, Judge Taylor (who appointed Atticus to the case), and even Heck Tate.  There were also all the people who left food or other items in support of Atticus.  Finally, as Miss Maudie points out, everyone knew Atticus would not win but he managed to keep the jury out, thinking about the case, and that in itself was progress.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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