What is the significance of Atticus's quote, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view"?

Expert Answers
Jessica Akcinar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"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 quote is significant because it exemplifies one of the major themes in the novel: perspective as a means of reaching tolerance. Atticus believes that part of the reason why there is prejudice is because people do not understand each other. In fact, many people in Maycomb who are misunderstood are shunned or discriminated against by the townspeople, including Boo Radley, the Ewells, and all black people. In speaking these words to Scout, Atticus is trying to teach his daughter how to learn about other people in order to learn tolerance.

zumba96 | Student

This is important because in To Kill a Mockingbird, the entire time Boo Radley is supposedly an outcast when in reality he is like a mockingbird who was giving a bad reputation due to society. We learn how he is innocent and in fact helps save the children in the end. Similarly, Tom is an African man and because of the difference, he is given the wrong treatment due to his race. When he was trying to escape he got shot 17 times when that was not needed. Everyone knew he would lose because of the racist society yet Atticus still stood for what is right. This represents how none of the children understood what position these mockingbirds were in and you can never understand how bad things can be unless you look from their position.  

npoore84 | Student

One of the major themes in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird is tolerance. During this particular time period, there was very little tolerance for any person of a different race, particular African Americans. When Atticus takes on the role of the accused rapist's lawyer, he expresses an act of tolerance to the community. As he does this, he is showing Scout how one needs to act and what needs to be learned before making a judgment about the person. He is not only showing Scout how to make a correct judgment but also members of the community. The people in the community are not only intolerant towards African Americans but also Ewells and Boo Radley. As Atticus takes on the role of the defense attorney, he is showing the community that he learns both sides of the story because making a complete and well-inforned judgment.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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