What are some examples from To Kill a Mockingbird that demonstrate the theme of using reason and intelligence to solve problems?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because Maycomb is a town rooted in tradition and superstitions, Lee satirizes its idiosyncrasies and creates characters who separate themselves from others because of their use of logic.  Here are several specific examples:

1. When Heck Tate tells Atticus that Tom Robinson is being moved to the Maycomb jail and warns him about the mob that might be stopping by, Atticus calmly grabs a few items from the house and goes over to guard the jail.  He does not allow emotion or panic to overcome him; rather, he believes that he can reason with whoever shows up (Scout actually ends up solving the problem for him), but Atticus's presence at the jail no doubt comforted Tom.

2. Judge Taylor wisely asks Atticus to defend Tom Robinson.  He knows that the trial has the potential to be a riotous disaster, but with Atticus as the defense attorney, the judge is certain that that is the best solution to a potentially volatile situation.

3. When Scout emotionally tells Atticus of her horrid first day of school and of Miss Caroline's demanding that she not read at home anymore (simply an unintelligent order from a teacher!), Atticus suggests that Scout continue reading and not say anything at school about it. He has a way of calming down other characters' emotions so that they can see a more sensible approach to their problems.

4. Atticus needs to prove that Tom Robinson did not attack Mayella; so he uses all of his observations (the location of Mayella's injuries, Mr. Ewell's being lefthanded, and Tom Robinson's permanent arm injury) and builds his case from practical, irrefutable evidence.

5. When Calpurnia realizes that a rabid dog is near the house and the children, she reacts quickly and precisely.  She brings the children into the house, calls Atticus, and even risks her life to run to a neighbor's house to warn of the danger.  During all of this, she is able to negate the telephone operator's silly superstition about rabid dogs and accomplish what she needs to in order to keep everybody safe.

6. Dolphus Raymond knows that the townspeople would not leave him alone if they knew that he willingly and sanely married an African American woman and fathered children with her.  So, instead of demonstrating his reason and intelligence to everyone, he pretends to be drunk, all while getting to live the lifestyle he wants without being criticized.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem and Scout are the prime examples of To Kill a Mockingbird characters who use their heads to get the intended results. Some of their reasoning is not perfect.

Jem said, "Lemme think a minute... it's sort of like making a turtle come out..."
    "How's that?" asked Dill.
    "Strike a match under him."
    I told Jem if he set fire to the Radley house I was going to tell Atticus on him.

But the children learn quickly.

  • When Miss Caroline told Scout that she should not allow her father to read to her anymore since he "does not know how to teach," Scout realized the stupidity of the statement, "so I let well enough alone and stared out the window until recess..."
  • Scout wanted to quit their game of play-acting about Boo Radley because Atticus had caught on and because she had heard laughing coming from the house, but Jem and Dill wanted to keep playing. So Scout used a feminine touch. "My nagging got the better of Jem, as I knew it would."
  • When it snowed in Maycomb, Atticus told the kids that there wouldn't "be enough snow for a snowball." So, Jem took advantage of Miss Maudie's back yard to bring five baskets of soil to use as the inside foundation of their snowman. With enough snow on the outside, they were able to create their "morphodite snowman."
  • After cousin Francis called Atticus a "nigger-lover" and Scout "mighty dumb," he retreated into the kitchen and the protection of Aunt Alexandra. Scout slyly created a plan of attack. "When stalking one's prey, it it best to 
    take one's time. Say nothing, and as sure as eggs he will become curious and emerge." Sure enough, Francis came out, and "I split my knuckle to the bone on his front teeth."
  • Scout showed her greatest intelligence while intently
    viewing the Tom Robinson trial. After listening to Bob Ewell's testimony, she considered the facts and reasoned that "... Mr. Ewell could have beaten up Mayella. That much I could follow. If her right eye was 
    blacked and she was beaten mostly on the right side of the face, it would tend to show that a left-handed person did it. Sherlock Holmes and Jem Finch would agree."
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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