What do the children learn about the need for compassion from the way people are treated in To Kill a Mockingbird, and how do we know that they have learned to become more compassionate, too?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem and Scout come to understand that their attempts to make Boo Radley "come out" were an intrusion of his privacy, and that Atticus was right when he told them to "stop tormenting that man."

... I sometimes felt a twinge of remorse... at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment to Arthur Radley--what reasonable recluse wants children peeping through his shutters...  (Chapter 26)

At the end of the story, Scout understands Sheriff Tate's reason for calling Bob Ewell's death self-inflicted, and that charging Boo with Bob's death would be

"... sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?"  (Chapter 30)

Scout feels guilty that she and Jem had never given back to Boo "in return."

We had given him nothing, and it made me sad.  (Chapter 31)

Both of the children feel sorry for Dill's unhappy home life, and Dill wishes that he and Scout could have a baby together, recognizing that they would not make the same mistakes Dill's parent had. Jem is sympathetic with Tom Robinson's plight, and he believes juries should be done away with completely, and that Tom is undeserving of execution--guilty or not. Jem feels so strongly against the death penalty that he shows an unusual reaction to Scout's near squashing of the roly-poly in Chapter 26. "... they don't bother you," he cautions Scout. Finally, Scout understands the symbolic references to compassion in the story that Atticus reads to her at the end of the novel, and how Stoner's Boy--like Boo--

"... hadn't done any of those things... Atticus, he was real nice..."
     "... Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."  (Chapter 31)

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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