What are the adults' good and bad qualities in To Kill a Mockingbird, and what does Scout learn from them?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Atticus Finch.  The positive guiding force for his children as well as the town, Atticus has few negative aspects to his character. He sets an example for his children by his own actions: He is wise, brave and not beset by the racial prejudice found in most members of the town. Scout and Jem both emulate their father; both are considering becoming attorneys like their father, and Jem is proud to call Atticus "a gentleman, just like me."

Miss Maudie.  Another one of the positive characters of the novel, Miss Maudie is an independent woman who Jem and Scout call "our friend." She is happier working in her garden than worrying about why her house burned down, and she stands up for Atticus at the Missionary Circle tea; when Maudie regains her composure after learning of Tom Robinson's death, Scout decides it is a type of ladylike behavior to both admire and follow.

Tom Robinson.  Tom is an innocent character who eventually dies after being accused of reprehensible acts committed by others. He is kind, humble and honest, but he foolishly walks into Mayella Ewell's trap because of his own good nature and naivete. After Tom's death, Scout understands why B. B. Underwood's editorial calls it a "senseless killing" and that "Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed."

Boo Radley.  Like Tom, Boo is also accused of things of which he is innocent. Scout slowly learns that Boo is her friend, and by the final chapters, he turns out to be her life-saving hero as well.

Miss Caroline and Miss Gates.  Both of Scout's teachers mean well, but they are both in need of further education themselves. Miss Caroline is a haughty know-it-all who doesn't recognize that her own inexperience is her worst enemy. Miss Gates, meanwhile, preaches fairness and equality, but Scout knows that black people are excluded from such consideration.

Dolphus Raymond.  Dolphus is considered a "sinful man" because of his apparent drunkenness and "mixed children," but he is a caring man who is color blind when it comes to the races. Scout learns Raymond's secret (the mysterious bottle is only Coca-Cola), that he admires Atticus, and that she "liked his smell... of leather, horses, cottonseed."

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