What quotes and events from To Kill A Mockingbird highlight individuality and belonging?

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bree1228 | High School Teacher | In Training Educator

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, there are many examples of the themes of individuality and belonging. Atticus Finch is definitely a perfect model of personal integrity and individuality, as he fights for the innocence of Tom Robinson, falsely accused of rape, as well as his own beliefs.  A good example of this would be when Jem makes the observation of his father, Atticus, as he realizes, "It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived," (Chapter 11).  Jem believes his dad is a hero in his own right because of his moral commitment to the law and to justice.  Atticus goes against the grain of the majority that would rather see Tom proven guilty for a crime he did not even commit.  He is willing to be an individual amidst town pressure to be otherwise.

Perhaps the most valuable quote illustrating individualism and belonging is again spoken by Atticus: "They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself.  The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience" (Chapter 11).  Atticus knows he must morally be able to live with his own decisions, rather than simply follow the crowd of antagonistic townsfolk that believe in convicting Tom based solely on his skin color. 

The last example of the themes of individuality and belonging is when Jem responds to Dill that he would rather stand up for what he sees as just, instead of being one of the many "clowns" in society that think that the world runs a certain prescribed way.  Jem believes that clowns, or the general public opinion that most people flock to, "...are sad, it's folks that laugh at them. Well, I'm gonna be a new kind of clown. I'm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks," (Chapter 22).  This shows that Jem is willing to be his own person depsite the wave of public opinion that oftentimes influences the choices we make as individuals.  When we make choices based on public opinion, rather than on our own morals and beliefs, we risk a kind of obliteration, or alienation, from society.  Jem is perfectly willing to take this chance.  He believes in justice, and the fact that in ignorance lies sadness.  It is better to be the clown that stands alone, rather than be the clown that follows an unjust accusation and cannot think for itself.

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