How does one function as an indiviual in the confines of "society" in To Kill a Mockingbird?This can be just in general and doesn't have to be directly from the book. It is a warm up question...

How does one function as an indiviual in the confines of "society" in To Kill a Mockingbird?

This can be just in general and doesn't have to be directly from the book. It is a warm up question before starting the book.

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The novel offers several examples of people managing, through sacrifice or determination, to function as individuals within the confines of society. Three of the clearest examples of people doing this in the book are Atticus Finch, Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. 

The individuality of all of these characters is determined and defined by an adherence to personal values, which direct their behavior in ways that put them at odds with the society around them. 

Tom Robinson strives to come to Mayella Ewell's aid when no one else will.

Because he saw she was left alone to maintain the household without any help from her family, he often performed small chores for her.

Tom's values seem to suggest that if he is able to help someone in need, he should do so. This generosity, extended to the poorest of the poor in Maycomb, sets Tom apart and demonstrates a way to be an individual within society. 

He is an intelligent man and aware that his help is taken for granted and could even be misconstrued. He has the courage to help her anyway, and this has disastrous consequences for him.

Tom Robinson's conviction in court parallels the public judgment and condemnation of Atticus Finch and Boo Radley.

The ways that Atticus Finch and Boo Radley function as individuals is similar in the sense that they both hold values that set them apart from their society. For Atticus Finch, these values relate to social justice, patience, and forbearance. For Boo Radley, these values relate to privacy and kindness. 

In adhering to these values, these men fail to completely conform to the society they live within. 

Sources:
homer909's profile pic

homer909 | Student | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

In my opinion, everyone has the same unsolvable crisis in life: escaping conformity. In TKaM, Atticus models this perfectly; he stands for morality and integrity and raises his kids with utmost dignity. To answer your quetion, one tries, but the degree to which they can succeed is limited. One can stand his ground, speak his heart, and try to change others.

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