What are some examples of the golden rule in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probably the most stark example of the Golden Rule is Atticus' actions on behalf of Tom Robinson. 

In Chapter 9, Atticus explains to Scout his reasons for defending Tom Robinson in court. He tells her that he is compelled to defend an innocent man, no matter the color of his skin. On her part, Scout is curious as to why her father would sully his reputation for Tom's sake. 

In the conversation, Atticus implies that Tom's racial heritage is immaterial:

"If you shouldn’t be defendin‘ him, then why are you doin’ it?" “For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

Essentially, Atticus argues that his conscience compels him to act on Tom's behalf. Atticus' conviction regarding the Golden Rule stems from his entrenched faith in equality. Atticus is adamant that Tom gets the same due process a white man would receive.

Another example of the Golden Rule can be found in Chapter 14. In this chapter, Scout asks Atticus for permission to visit Calpurnia in her home. Before Atticus can answer, Aunt Alexandra expressly forbids Scout from going. Frustrated by Aunt Alexandra's intransigence, Scout blurts out a sassy "I didn't ask you!"

Aunt Alexandra portrays Scout's behavior in a negative light in order to manipulate Atticus into firing Calpurnia, but Atticus refuses to take the bait.

“Alexandra, Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn’t have got along without her all these years. She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things the way they are."

Atticus's answer again demonstrates his belief in the Golden Rule. He will not bow to pressure from Aunt Alexandra to disavow Calpurnia simply because of her entrenched prejudices. In the novel, Atticus passes his belief in the Golden Rule to Scout and Jem. Towards the end of the story, Scout embodies the Golden Rule perfectly when she guides a shy Boo Radley to Jem's bedside, and later, when she escorts him home.

litgeek2015 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many examples in the text about this and they often come in the form of Atticus saying something to the children or modeling the behavior himself.

Towards the beginning of the novel he tells Scout that it is important to try and walk in another person's shoes to really understand what they are going through. This relates to the Golden Rule because in order for us to treat others as we wish to be treated, we often first need to understand how they are like us at all. It can be more difficult to treat others the way we would like to be treated if we do not see them in a positive light, and Atticus was trying to explain to Scout how important that is.

When Scout gets angry at Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard for what she perceives as him getting her into trouble with Miss Caroline, Jem steps in and stops her. Walter does not have any lunch or any money for it, and Jem invites him back to the Finch house for lunch. Scout is mad about this, but Calpurnia reminds her that he is a guest just like any other. This is another good example that one needs to treat others as they would like to be treated. Obviously Scout would not have liked to have been beaten up for not having any lunch money and then criticized for coming to lunch after being invited. In this chapter Jem, Atticus, and Calpurnia are all modeling the Golden Rule.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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