What characters in To Kill a Mockingbird have taught Scout lessons and what are those lessons?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the title itself indicates one of the most salient of lessons that Scout Finch learns.  Harming those that cause no harm is a sin, Atticus Finch teaches his children by word and by example.  This lesson is just one of many that Scout's father teaches her.  But there are others that Scout learns from citizens in the town and from her neighbors.  Here are lessons that Scout learns from other characters:

Miss Maudie teaches Scout that hypocrisy abounds in human nature

The town gossip, Miss Stephanie Crawford spreads rumors about others with little justification for criticizing others. She is quick to malign Atticus in an effort to ruin his reputation for taking the Tom Robinson case, and for accusing Boo Radley of being a peeping Tom.  Whenever Miss Stephanie talks, Miss Maudie usually cuts her off with a cryptic remark. 

In another incidence, at the Missionary tea, Mrs. Merriweather discusses the African charity that her church is involved in; however, at this same meeting she dsparages her maid, saying that she is "sulky and dissatisfied":

"It's never entered that wool of hers that the only reason i keep her is because this depression's on and she needs her dollar and a quarter every week she can get it."

"His food doesn't stick going down, does it?"  Miss Maudie said it.

Asking Mrs. Merriweather if the food sticks in Mr. Merriweather's throat because of their hypocrisy, Miss Maudie draws Mrs. Merriweather's attention to the contradictory nature of her words about Sophy in contrast to her self-righteous and sanctimonious pronouncement regarding her charity to the African mission.

Mr. Underwood teaches Scout that there can be decency in even biased people.

While the newspaper man, Mr. Underwood, will hire no blacks or socialize with them in any way, he recognizes the injustice of the mob's demand of Atticus Finch that Tom Robinson be released to them.  And so, he points a rifle at the white men who want to lynch Tom without a fair trial.  Later, he writes a scathing editorial about the injustice of the verdict of Tom's trial.

Mr. Dolphus Raymond teaches Scout that appearances may be deceiving.

Before the trial of Tom Robinson at the courthouse, Scout has believed Mr. Raymond is a drunkard who lives with the blacks.  Later, she learns that while he does confuse the racial and social categories set by the citizenry of Maycomb, he is no drunkard, and no fool.  Scout learns, too, that he does care about what other people think.  He teaches Scout that he lives a double life because sometimes people must compromise so that they can live in places where they do not fit in.  He also teaches her that as she and Dill and Jem grow older they will learn that only children cry for some injustices.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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