In your estimation, how fully do Scout and Jem in "To Kill a Mockingbird" understand the roots of prejudice?
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This is a great question because predjudice is a theme throughout the book. Predjudice does not just refer the racial predjudice we see in the rape trial, but also predjudice against all types of groups including social status. Jem and Scout continually see this predjudice from the town and from their own family. Their own aunt do not want them to go to a "black church" as an example.
However, we see the innocence of children trying to grasp and understand predjudice. They are confused by the outcome of the trial or the way peoeple are treated because prejudice is not something that can be understood. They start to realize this exists but also realize the absurdity of it and that the ideas you have about someone may not always be true. They realize Boo Radley was not a monster but in fact saved their lives.
This question is asking for your opinion; therefore, only you can answer it. I can give you my opinion, but that would not be helpful to you at all. The key phrase is "In your estimation." Your teacher would not have included that phrase if he or she was not interested in what you have to say about the issue. No matter what your answer it, your teacher will be glad that you have taken the time to think about the issue, to consider how Jem and Scout progress in their understanding of prejudice and to formulate your own interpretation of these characters.
Having said that, let me give you a few pointers: Always keep in mind that Jem and Scout are children. Is it possible for them to understand the "roots" of prejudice? Can even adults understand what the roots of prejudice are? Think about everything these children have witnessed and experienced. How have they been affected by it all? Are they different people at the end of the book than they were at the beginning?
Don't be afraid to answer the question for yourself. Your teacher wants your opinion. Good luck!
I'm not sure that Scout and Jem do understand the roots of prejudice. They understand what prejudice is. They understand that certain people are viewed in certain ways - as shown by Scout's announcement about the "Ewell boy" on her first day of school. They accept that the jury is being unfair when they convict Tom Robinson, which is why Jem cries. However, they are also able to understand that the jury did this because of prejudice.
However, considering the scene outside the jail, when Atticus is facing off against the "mob", they do not seem to understand the cause of the prejudice. Scout is ignornant of why the men are trying to argue with Atticus. The kids both only recognize that their father is in trouble.
As a grown-up narrator recounting the history of the town, the adult Scout is able to point to the South's history and the Civil War. There is an allusion to this to the history of African-American and white realtionships in this country. Through the use of Atticus, much of the cause of each individual's prejudice is able to be explained. But there is not a moment where either child comes to a realization about why the people of their town have such biases.
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