How does Lee show the importance of seeing from other’s perspectives in chapters 12–20 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mrwickline | High School Teacher | In Training Educator

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In Chapter 15, the Old Sarum bunch, consisting of Mr. Cunningham and his crew, arrive at the Maycomb County jailhouse to lynch Tom Robinson, who is awaiting his trail. They confront Atticus, who is posted outside the jailhouse reading. As the men surround Atticus, Scout and Jem run out from their hiding place towards their father. Scout runs in the middle of the group of men and spots Mr. Cunningham. Scout then proceeds to attempt to make polite conversation with Mr. Cunningham by mentioning his entailment and his son Walter. After numerous attempts to start a conversation, Scout is finally successful when Mr. Cunningham bends down to say, “I’ll tell him you said hey, little lady.” (15.206) Immediately following their interaction, Mr. Cunningham tells his men to clear out and leave. At the beginning of Chapter 6, Atticus is explaining how Mr. Cunningham is basically a good person who became influenced by mob mentality. He explains how Scout was able to bring them to their senses by saying,

“That proves something---that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human. Hmp, maybe we need a police force of children…you children last night made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute. That was enough.”

Until Walter Cunningham was made aware of Scout’s presence, he was not aware of how Atticus felt. Standing in one’s shoes for a minute is a common idiom for taking another person’s perspective. Walter Cunningham took the perspective of Atticus and realized the error in his behavior. Cunningham was able to put himself in Atticus’ position and understood how difficult of a situation this actually was for Atticus. Cunningham was able to see Atticus as another human being, and decided to do the honorable thing and leave.

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