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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In the book To Kill a Mockingbird what did Jem and Scout learn about themselves and the society they live in?

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Jem and Scout discover that their father, whom they originally thought of as too old to do anything, is a hero to many people.  They see this not only through his willingness to take Tom Robinson's case and do his best to win what seems like an unwinnable case but also through the townspeople's reaction to Atticus's behavior.  The black community leaves a feast at the Finch home after the trial to show their appreciation for Atticus's efforts.  Likewise, Miss Maudie constantly tries to stress Atticus's fine attributes to Jem and Scout.  In understanding the town's view of their father, the two children realize that they have big shoes to fill and that because of their father's tolerance and wisdom, they see events in Maycomb in a different way than most of the other townspeople.

What they learn about society is not so positive.  When the local men approach Atticus at the jail, Scout sees that a normally quiet, shy man (Mr. Cunningham) when involved with a mob does not think for himself.  When the children witness a clear legal victory in the courtroom and the jury sides with the prosecution, they comprehend that prejudice does not follow logic or the law.  Perhaps the most important lesson Scout learns is at the novel's end when she stand on Boo Radley's porch and "sees" her small little world through Boo's eyes.  It is then that she understands that to truly be tolerant toward others, one must "climb in another's skin and walk around in it."

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