What is the meaning of this quote?  I need to write a 2 body paragraph on Chapter 3, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view" in To Kill a Mockingbird.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When telling Scout to consider things from others’ points of view, Atticus is teaching her empathy.

Atticus tells Scout that you never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view when she has trouble with her new teacher, Miss Caroline, at school.  When she doesn’t understand, he further explains with the metaphor that you have to get inside a person’s skin and walk around in it.  This is Atticus’s way of trying to teach Scout empathy.

Atticus said I had learned many things today, and Miss Caroline had learned several things herself. … We could not expect her to learn all Maycomb's ways in one day, and we could not hold her responsible when she knew no better. (Ch. 3)

Atticus tells Scout that Miss Caroline is an outsider, and basically Scout and the other children need to be patient with her.  This lesson is a very important one for Scout, about judgment.  Throughout the book there are many people that Scout judges, including Boo Radley, Mayella Ewell, and Dolphus Raymond.  In each case, she has to consider things from their point of view.  She learns to look at things from their perspective, and not judge them as others do.  She learns to sympathize, forgive, and even pity them, when the rest of society won’t or can’t. 

Scout learns, for example, why Dolphus Raymond pretends to be drunk when he really only has a bottle of soda.

"Some folks don't- like the way I live. …  It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason. … if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond's in the clutches of whiskey…” (Ch. 20)

Empathy is a very grown-up emotion, and it is important to Scout’s moral development.  It is also crucial to a society overcoming racial stereotypes and prejudice.  It is because Scout is capable of empathy that she is able to see her father’s side of humanity.  This is the side where Dolphus Raymond can love a black woman (without being drunk), and Tom Robinson and Caplurnia deserve respect.  Atticus is teaching Scout to look at the world from another person’s skin, but he is also teaching the entire town of Maycomb, so that someday, Mr. Raymond won't need the ruse of pretending to be drunk.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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