What are some of the lessons Scout learned at the end of To Kill a Mockingbird ?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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By the end of the book, Scout has learned to empathize with people.

There are three main people Scout learns to empathize with in the book: her father, Mayella Ewell, and Boo Radley.  By the end of the book, Scout has grown up a lot. When she was younger, she thought that Boo Radley was a very scary person.  He was the monster of the neighborhood.  By the end of the book, she is walking him home.  This shows great personal development on her part, and demonstrates that she has learned Atticus’s lesson about looking at things from another person’s point of view.

When Scout was younger, she had a very difficult time doing just that.  She had tunnel vision when it came to other people, and it often got her into trouble.  She got into fights at school, and at home, because of it. 

Scout does not have much empathy for her father when she first learns that he is taking Tom Robinson’s case.  She is upset with him because he has made himself a target, and made targets out of her and Jem too.  Atticus explains to Scout that he has to take the case.

"Atticus, are we going to win it?"

"No, honey."

"Then why-"

"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win," Atticus said. (Ch. 9)

It takes some convincing before Scout fully understands this argument, or what is really going on here.  Yet during Christmas, she turns around and defends her father and her family honor to her cousin.  This may be more a matter of personal pride than anything else.  She explains to her uncle that she had to do it.  Whether or not she understands why Atticus is defending Tom Robinson, she is going to defend Atticus.

During the trial, Scout comes to appreciate that the rest of the town considers the trial a spectacle, but that many people do respect and empathize with her father.  Scout has grown up a bit since she took on Francis, and she is beginning to see things from other people’s points of view.  She actually begins to empathize with Mayella Ewell.

I wondered if anybody had ever called her "ma'am," or "Miss Mayella" in her life; probably not, as she took offense to routine courtesy. What on earth was her life like? I soon found out. (Ch. 18)

Scout learns to feel something for Mayella, even though she is technically on the other side.  She realizes that she is a young girl in a difficult situation.

She had trouble seeing Boo Radley as a person just like she had trouble understanding why her father would take Tom Robinson’s case.  All she saw was how things affected her.  When Boo Radley put a blanket on Scout’s shoulders at the fire, for instance, Scout’s older brother Jem was concerned about Boo getting in trouble if anyone found out, while Scout was still afraid of Boo.   She failed to recognize the kindness in that gesture fully.

However, when Boo Radley risks his life to save Scout and Jem on Halloween, Scout comes to understand what a fragile and shy creature he is.  She admires him for stepping up as he did, and she treats him with dignity and respect.  She finds him in a corner, timid, as if he doesn’t know what to do with himself, and tells him he can see and touch Jem, the boy he regards as a friend and whose life he just saved.

"You can pet him, Mr. Arthur, he's asleep. You couldn't if he was awake, though, he wouldn't let you..." I found myself explaining.  

"Go ahead."

Boo's hand hovered over Jem's head.

"Go on, sir, he's asleep." (Ch. 31)

In this gesture is a profound expression of empathy, which is a very grown-up move.  Scout is able to evaluate and appreciate Boo Radley and treat him with kindness, and then give him what he needs.

When Scout walks Boo Radley home and then stands on his porch, reliving the incidents of her childhood from his perspective, it is one of the most touching moments in the book.  It demonstrates that she truly has grown up.  She comes to a powerful realization.

“…Atticus, he was real nice...."

...

"Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them." (Ch. 31)

The strongest lesson Scout learns in this book is empathy.  She develops empathy for her father, who takes a case that is unwinnable and unpopular when the whole town is against him.  She also develops empathy for Mayella Ewell, the young girl who accused Tom Robinson, who the reader never expects to feel sympathy for.  Finally, she learned to empathize with Boo Radley, the town bogeyman who turned out to be just a nice man who was lonely and needed a friend.

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