How does Harper Lee create empathy through the use of setting, language and characters?
Empathy in the presentation of Maycomb's "caste" system (setting - historical context)
From the top down:
1. Poor White Professionals (Finchs)
2. Poor White farmers (Cunninghams)
3. Poor White trash (Ewells)
4. Poor Blacks (Robinsons)
Notice that ALL are poor. Consider Atticus' answer to Scout's "Atticus, are we poor?" in chapter two: "We are indeed."
It is the comparison that follows in this conversation and then throughout the book though, that Lee uses to create empathy. She presents four classes all in connection with one another. All of these classes actually existed in the south at the time the novel was set, and through the characters who fit into each class within the plot context, the audience is left to make a judgement on society at that time, as a whole.
Examples of empathetic treatment of characters in To Kill a Mockingbird:
DILL. Dill draws empathy in several ways. Jem and Scout (and the reader) feel sorry for him because of his goofy looks and sadly neglected home life. He also draws the passion of Scout, who accepts his proposal of marriage.
TOM ROBINSON. The reader can't help but feel pity for the crippled Negro who is falsely accused of assault and rape, belittled in court, and convicted despite a lack of evidence against him. His death completes the tragic nature of the character.