How does Harper Lee portray love in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are no instances of romantic love in To Kill a Mockingbird unless you want to count the childhood plans of Scout and Dill to some day get married. Love in the novel is expressed through respect and fairness and revolves around family and friends. Atticus is the constant in the novel who shows his love through how he treats people like Mr. Cunningham and Tom Robinson.  He is respectful and humble in his dealings with the people of Maycomb and is the moral compass of the novel.  His love for his children is deep and strong although at times he seems to be a “hands off” kind of father.  The lessons he instills in Scout and Jem prove his love because he wants them to be great people, and he loves them enough to teach them how to do it.  His lesson to Scout about living in someone else’s skin shows how he uses his wisdom to teach his children how to love everyone.

Other deep feelings exist between Jem and Scout. He is there to protect her when Bob Ewell attempts to murder her.  They have a deep understanding of each other as they talk at bedtime each night about the events going on in Maycomb. 

The bond between Scout, Dill, and Jem is a strong life-long friendship that is connected by experiences and childhood games. Other important friendships that show love are the relationships Scout has with Calpurnia and Miss Maudie. They are accepting friendships built on honesty and trust. 

The friendship Scout and Jem have with Boo is short lived but built on mutual respect and understanding.  It is the most important friendship in the novel as they learn the most from it.  Their willing acceptance of Boo shows their love for him.

Overall, we can see the love of family, friends, and the disenfranchised like Tom Robinson and Boo Radley rule the lives of the main characters.  It is a profound love built on history, community, and respect for all who come into their lives.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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