How does Scout learn about the evils in the world in To Kill a Mockingbird? Please provide specific examples.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    For a girl Scout's age, she sure seems to know a great deal about the outside world and the perils it has to offer in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.  Her father, Atticus, believes in a straightforward approach and holds back little when it comes to his talks about life in Maycomb. Brother Jem contributes greatly to Scout's knowledge, and she soaks in most of her other "learnin'" from her neighbors and teachers.
    She learns that her mother's fatal heart attack "ran in her family." She uncovers the apparent evils of the Radley Place from Miss Stephanie. She is taught that her father is a poor educator from her first grade teacher, Miss Caroline:

"... You tell him I'll take over from here and try to undo the damage--"

She discovers about poverty and entailment from Atticus' talks about the Cunninghams. She sees first-hand the random destruction of fire when Miss Maudie's house burns to the ground. She feels the sorrow of child neglect from the experiences of her friend, Dill. The world of drug addiction becomes clearer through Jem's time spent with Mrs. Dubose.
     Scout first glimpses the world of bigotry beginning with her playmate, Cecil Jacobs, and her cousin, Francis.

"... I guess it ain't your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover besides, but I'm here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family."

It becomes even clearer when she watches the Tom Robinson trial in person, sees that he is an innocent man, and then witnesses the jury declare him guilty. She perceives the depths of human hatred up close in Bob Ewell, and the hypocrisy of the deeply religious in Mrs. Merriweather. She is warned of the atrocities of Hitler by her teacher, Miss Gates, whose own words cannot be trusted.

"... I heard her say it's time somebody taught 'em (Maycomb's Negroes) a lesson... Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home--"

And in the final chapters, she personally feels the hand of vengeance and violence while in the grip of Bob Ewell before being saved by the man whose own supposed devilishness she had feared as a younger, less worldly child.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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