What characters show empathy in To Kill a Mockingbird, and how do they do so, using quotes?

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Empathy is a theme throughout To Kill a Mockingbird.  Three characters in particular show empathy in the novel.

Atticus Finch thinks that empathy is important.  He wants to instill empathy into his children, Scout and Jem.  Throughout the novel, Atticus tells his children to walk in the shoes of someone else.  Below are some examples:

Atticus said I had learned many things today, and Miss Caroline had learned several things herself.  She had learned not to hand something to a Cunningham, for one thing, but if Walter and I had put ourselves in her shoes we'd have seen it was an honest mistake on her part.  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 (Chapter 3).

"Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell's shoes a minute.  I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with" (Chapter 23).

Miss Maudie is Scout's neighbor.  She is an understanding person.  One day, Scout asks Miss Maudie about Boo Radley.  Miss Maudie is empathetic as she tries to make Scout understand why Boo is the way he is.  She understands that Boo is different because of his circumstances and family:

"You reckon he's crazy?"

Miss Maudie shook her head.  "If he's not he should be by now.  The things that happen to people we never really know" (Chapter 5).

Scout also shows empathy in the novel.  When Walter Cunningham, Jr. refuses to borrow Miss Caroline's quarter, Scout tries to explain why.  She understands the Cunninghams and why they do not borrow money from anyone.  She tries to make Miss Caroline understand this as well, so that her teacher will not try to make Walter take the quarter:

"You're shamin' him, Miss Caroline.  Walter hasn't got a quarter at home to bring you, and you can't use any stovewood" (Chapter 2).




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To Kill a Mockingbird

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