How does family in "To Kill a Mockingbird" impact Scout's life?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Critic R. A. Dave claims that in To Kill a Mockingbird "there is a complete cohesion of art and morality." And, it is the motif of family that creates such cohesion. For, throughout the narrative, it is the strength of family ties that imbues Scout with values.

  • It is the advice of Atticus that arrests Scout's pejorative attitude toward Miss Caroline, who does not conform to her expectations. He tells his daughter,

"First of all,...if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll 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---"

  • Further, Atticus's personal conduct serves as a stellar example of integrity and loyalty. For instance, he is always polite to Mrs. Dubose despite the vituperative comments she makes about him after he agrees to defend Tom Robinson.  As Miss Maudie remarks, "Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets."  Whenever the children trespass upon the Radley property, Atticus scolds them, "stop tormenting that man."
  • Certainly, he exemplifies the respect for others that he demands from his children. Likewise, his brother Jack and his sister Alexandra reaffirm these values as Jack keeps his promise to Scout to not report the reason why she hit Francis, and Alexandra supports Atticus in his personal beliefs despite not concurring with them.
  • Interestingly, the constant reading of Atticus and the frequent reading of Jem and Scout serve to reinforce the concept of learning and examination of facts. This, too, is a family lesson that develops in Scout a rational examination of facts and an objectivity toward others.
  • Time and time again, Scout has the love of Atticus to teach and support her. She is given the advice of not harming a mockingbird and respecting each person's rights; she is always shown how to react to situations through the stellar example of her father and even her aunt, who is angered by the insensitive remarks of Mrs. Merriweather at the Missionary Tea. For instance, at the trial of Tom Robinson, the children witness the integrity of their father as he is fair in his interrogation of Bob and Mayella Ewell. Finally, when Bob Ewell attacks Jem and endangers Scout, she is comforted by her father and listens as he talks with Sheriff Tate, concluding that they must protect the shy recluse, Boo Radley, proving to Scout his maxim of not harming a mockingbird as well as supporting all his gestures of fairness and love. Indeed, it is the love of family that teaches and protects Scout Finch.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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