In To Kill A Mockingbird, what is Scout's main internal conflict and how is it resolved? 

Expert Answers
mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout has several internal conflicts throughout the novel.  One that is central and appears throughout much of the novel is her reaction to those who criticize her father.

When Atticus takes the Tom Robinson case, he earns the disapproval of many Maycomb citizens.  The case is controversial, and many white people in Maycomb already harbor negative feelings toward blacks.

Cecil Jacobs is the first one to say anything.  He speaks of Atticus in an insulting way and uses the n-word to describe Tom Robinson.  Scout is appalled and becomes angry.  Later, Scout's cousin Francis says something similar.  Both times, Scout tries to fight the boys who insult her father.

Atticus patiently explains to Scout that she needs to walk in someone else's shoes.  She needs to have empathy and compassion for others.  Gradually, Scout's heart changes.  Scout begins to see that many people in Maycomb are ignorant.  They think badly about the black residents of Maycomb because their parents had taught them so.  They do not have empathy.  When Scout frets about the reactions of people in town, Atticus reassures her:

"Scout," said Atticus, "when summer comes you'll have to keep your head about far worse things… it's not fair for you and Jem, I know that, but sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down—well, all I can say is, when you and Jem are grown, maybe you'll look back on this with some compassion and some feeling that I didn’t let you down.  This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man's conscience—Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help that man" (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 11).

Atticus knows that many people in town disapproval of his defense of Tom.  He knows that temporary ridicule is worth it for doing the right thing.   Scout slowly begins to have more empathy.  She also develops more of an understanding of the black community in Maycomb.  She gets to know Calpurnia more than ever before, and she and Jem sit up in the balcony during the trial.  The resolution is when Scout comes to accept that it does not matter what everyone else says.  It is better to do the right thing than to appear proper around town.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question