How is the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee a good example of a book focused on the theme of journeys and belonging?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird novel of formation and education, truly a work that focuses upon the journey of Jem, Scout, and Dill from the subjectivity of children to the objectivity worthy of adults.

  • Scout

Early on Scout is very childish and subjective; viewing her father as an "old man" she is dubious about some of his advice such as the importance of understanding a person by "climb[ing] into his skin and walk[ing] around in it." Instead, she finds her new teacher, Miss Caroline, an outsider and disparaging of her father, saying that Scout should

...tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading.

Scout also calls Malevolent a "malevolent phantom." And, she mitigates the worth of Walter Cunningham, telling Calpurnia, "He's just a Cunningham" when Calpurnia scolds Scout for making fun of the boy.

Yet, through her encounters with the vituperative Mrs. Dubose and the hypocritical Mrs. Merriweather, the affection and influence of the irreverent and often sarcastic Miss Maudie, and her exposure to such self-serving people as Bob Ewell and his daughter Mayella against the kindness and humility of Tom Robinson at his trial, Scout gains much worldly knowledge; she learns that there are people who are gratuitously cruel and malicious. She also learns that some people may be poor or social outcasts, but they have values. For instance, Mr. Cunningham honors the friendship shown him by Atticus; he leads the mob away from Atticus, who sits before the jailhouse. And, Mr. Dolphus Raymond, the social disgrace, yet understands man's inhumanity to man, displaying much kindness to Dill who weeps for Tom Robinson.  He explains the nature of people to the children, thus enlightening them to the unreasonable cruelty of humans.

Moreover, when Boo Radley risks his life to save Scout and her brother, Scout realizes the import of her father's words as she stands on his porch,

you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.

Having done this for Boo Radley, Scout realizes his bravery. And, she reaches maturation as she no longer believes in childish delusions.

  • Jem

Like Scout, Jem learns not to prejudge people. For instance, he, too, is taught by Atticus to leave Boo Radley in peace; he learns that Mrs. Dubose is, as his father says, a brave woman, and he witnesses Calpurnia's courage at her church. In addition, he apprehends with his sister and Dill that people are judgmental, envious, and cruel. Jem attains greater maturity since he is older than Scout; when Dill sneaks away from home and travels to Macomb, hiding under one of the children's bed, Jem informs Atticus because he is aware that Dill's mother will be worried. Certainly displaying his love for Atticus, Jem insists upon going to the jailhouse on the night the mob comes. 

At home, the logical Jem questions the injustice of the verdict as Tom is convicted, and he has great difficulty reconciling the "secret courts of men's hearts" with the verdict of the real court.  Atticus tells Scout that Jem will simply have to "think about it and sort things out."

  • Dill

At first, Dill is inconsiderate of Boo Radley, exploiting him for his and the other children's delight and fears. Because his mother is preoccupied, he runs away from home; Dill's feelings are strong.When he weeps at the verdict of the trial, Mr. Raymond tells him to cry,

"Cry about the simple hell people give other people--without even thinking.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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