How does Scout change during the Tom Robinson case in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout develops more understanding of the trial process and empathy for the Ewell and Robinson families during the trial.

In the weeks and months leading up to the trial, Scout learns a lot about the legal process.  She does not really understand why her father is defending Tom Robinson, what Robinson is accused of, or why the residents of the town are reacting to her father with such disdain.  During the trial, she learns about the roles of race and class.

Scout follows the testimony well, and understands that Mayella had a tough life.

As Tom Robinson gave his testimony, it came to me that Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the world. She was even lonelier than Boo Radley, who had not been out of the house in twenty-five years. (ch 19)

This demonstrates an understanding of class and empathy.  Scout realizes that Mayella, as an Ewell, has certain disadvantages.

Scout also develops an understanding of race as she thinks about Tom Robinson’s life, and the people’s reactions to him.  For example, when Tom says he felt sorry for Mayella, Scout realizes that this is a fatal mistake.

The witness realized his mistake and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. But the damage was done. Below us, nobody liked Tom Robinson's answer. (ch 19)

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the Tom Robinson trial, Scout witnesses racial injustice firsthand and loses her childhood innocence. Unlike her brother, who becomes jaded with their prejudiced community, Scout begins to notice the overt racism throughout Maycomb and gains empathy for innocent, defenseless, marginalized individuals. Scout gains perspective following the trial and becomes aware of the harmful effects of prejudice. She also begins to notice the hypocritical nature of her neighbors during Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle and understands the meaning behind Mr. Underwood's editorial concerning Tom's unfortunate death. Scout also becomes aware of Miss Gates's hypocritical comments during a Current Events activity in class. Scout also develops empathy for her reclusive neighbor and metaphorically applies Atticus's lesson regarding why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Overall, Scout gains perspective on her prejudiced community, becomes aware of the hypocrisy of her neighbors, and empathizes with Boo Radley's unfortunate situation. The Tom Robinson trial is an eye-opening, enlightening experience for Scout, who gains valuable perspective on her community and develops into a strongly moral person like Atticus.

Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout matures during the trial of Tom Robinson as she learns about violence and the dark side of humanity, as well as the complexity of human relationships and race relations in her community. She is still a child at the end of the novel, but she is a child with a deeper understanding of violence than most children her age. Though Scout may not have the sophisticated language to discuss her new knowledge, she does have more emotional intelligence, which makes her a dynamic character in the truest sense of the word.

At the start of the novel, Scout is getting into fights, hurting others physically, and recklessly acting on impulse before thinking through situations. Thanks to clear and respectful conversations with Atticus, who exposes Scout to the challenges of their experience in Maycomb rather than protecting her too much from suffering, Scout learns that her own tendency to violence isn't right. Physical violence in any form isn't acceptable, and when she and Jem are attacked by Bob Ewell on the night after the pageant, Scout gains a terrifying memory about physical violence no child should have to remember.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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