What are the major themes in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most important themes in this powerful text is that of empathy and understanding. Maycomb, as is shown in the text, is a society that is clearly split through class, race and numerous other distinctions. In such an environment of inequality, Atticus teaches his children the importance and value of empathy, and of trying to see the world through the eyes of other people. Note how this teaching is expressed in Chapter Three:

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

This is a truth that Scout herself realises is correct at the end of the story, when she is able to put herself in the shoes of Boo Radley and see how he views life. She has moved from being a young girl who demonised Boo Radley and saw him as a figure of fun and a kind of "bogeyman" to seeing him as another human being just like her, which is a great mark of maturity. It is interesting that this theme in the novel is explored further by the comparison of Atticus as a moral educator to the other supposed "experts," who are the teachers like Miss Caroline, who is shown to be so inflexible in her understanding of education that she threatens to do real harm to the children in her care. It is Atticus who is portrayed as being the better educator, as his lessons give his children maturity and help them grow up into responsible adults who understand the reality of the world and yet are able to operate morally within it.

Emmabieber | Student




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To Kill a Mockingbird

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