What lessons did Scout learn in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird is told from the first person point-of-view of the character Scout. It is often mistakenly said that the story is told from her perspective as a six-year-old, but it is actually told from her perspective as an adult looking back on events that occurred when she was six-years-old. This “double perspective” allows the narrator to reflect on the many important life-lessons she learned as the events of the novel unfolded.

One of the most important of those lessons came when a particularly vicious old neighbor named Mrs. Dubose infuriated Scout’s brother Jem by saying, “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” This prompted Jem to destroy Mrs. Dubose’s flowers, which brought forth a very creative punishment.

Jem and Scout were both sentenced to read to Mrs. Dubose every afternoon for a month. At the time they were unaware that Mrs. Dubose was fighting a morphine addiction. As the month passed, they noticed that she behaved strangely and that their reading sessions stretched out longer and longer. What they didn’t know at the time was that Mrs. Dubose was using those reading sessions to fight her addiction, going longer and longer periods without the morphine.

So what did Scout learn from this?

As she and Jem suffered from Mrs. Dubose’s verbal abuse of themselves and their father, they learned how to tolerate it and maintain their self-control and civility. At the end of the month, Scout noticed how Jem reacted to Mrs. Dubose’s cruel remarks about her father:

Jem’s chin would come up, and he would gaze at Mrs. Dubose with a face devoid of resentment. Through the weeks he had cultivated an expression of polite and detached interest, which he would present to her in answer to her most blood-curdling inventions.

This newfound ability to deal with difficult people brought both Jem and Scout in line with their father’s philosophy of treating people kindly and respectfully in every situation, regardless of how they might treat you.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout learns many lessons throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus teaches Scout a lesson on compromise. When Scout returns home from school dejected and refusing to go back, Atticus compromises with Scout. He tells her that he will read to her every night if she concedes to go to school.

Scout learns an important lesson on perspective. Atticus teaches Scout to "climb into someone's skin and walk around in it." Scout learns to see things from other people's perspective which plays an important part in her moral development.

Scout learns that people have both good and bad qualities. She also learns that people act differently around various people and in different situations. Scout learns an important lesson in how to treat others fairly regardless of race, social class, or gender. Scout also learns a valuable lesson in courage. She learns that real courage is standing up for something, even when the "chips are down" and the odds are against her.

Atticus and Maudie teach Scout that it is wrong to harm an innocent person. At the end of the novel, Scout understands this concept when Sheriff Tate refuses to recognize Boo Radley as the town hero because it will cause Boo more harm than good. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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