How does the morality of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird change throughout the story?Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, there is an awakening consciousness of the rules of right conduct, or morality, in the Finch children, Scout and Jem.  Provided the virtuous example of Atticus, their father, Calpurnia, the maid, and Miss Maudie, their neighbor, the children learn to treat all people fairly; also, they learn that there is often more to people that what first appears as with Mrs. Dubose and Mr. Raymond Dolphus, apprehending that "it is a sin to kill a mockingbird."  That is, they become aware that the gratuitous cruelty to innocents such as Boo Radley and Tom Robinson is morally and ethically wrong.

Likewise, in three of the adult characters, Aunt Alexandra, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. B. B. Underwood there is a restoration of their moral consciousness.   For instance, initially, Aunt Alexandra does not want her brother involved in the trial of Tom Robinson; however, she later comes to understand the moral significance of Atticus's actions:  he must maintain his integrity and convictions.  And, after Scout touches his sense of right and wrong, Mr. Cunningham cannot in good conscience go along with the rest of the jury on their guilty vote.  Further, Mr. B. B. Underwood, editor of the Maycomb daily newspaper, who admittedly dislikes blacks, feels morally compelled to write an invective against the egregious injustice of Tom's conviction. 

As Scout stands on the Radley porch in the final chapter, she remarks,

I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle.

The episodes of Scout and Jem's childhood help them to develop their moral consciousness, and the trial of the mockingbird, Tom Robinson, acts as a catylst to awaken the morality of many of the adults in Maycomb as they, like Scout, see their neighborhoods and town from a different angle.  While the children and the adults do not change their sense of morality, they do, indeed, develope and revive this awareness of ethical conduct.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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