What important lesson does Atticus teach Scout about understanding poeple?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you’re talking about one of the first lessons Atticus teaches Scout about understanding and respect.  At lunch time on Scout’s first day of school, the teacher, Miss Caroline, notices that another student, Walter Cunningham, doesn’t have a lunch.  She gives Walter money for lunch, and Scout tries to explain to Miss Caroline that Walter will not be able to pay her back.  The Cunninghams are very poor, and they don’t have enough money for lunch.  Scout gets in trouble for speaking up, and later fights Walter on the playground.  Jem breaks up the fight and invites Walter to their house for lunch.   When Walter gets a plate full of meat and vegetables, he pours molasses syrup all over the food.  Walter puts the syrup all over his food because he seldom has sweet things.  He loves the sugary taste even if it is mixed with his vegetables.  Scout acts horrified, and it embarrasses Walter.  Later that day, and after a rough start on her first day of school, Atticus asks Scout what is wrong.  It is then that he gives her the sound advice, “You never really understand a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

This lesson sets the stage for Scout’s growth and understanding of people and race relations in the novel.  Atticus is a man who respects everyone, and he does a great job in teaching his kids to try to understand another’s situation before they make a judgment. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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