Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

How have the Finch children's childhood experiences shaped their view of the world by the end of the book?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The biggest understandings Scout and Jem gain from their childhood experiences in To Kill a Mockingbird involve empathy and racial injustice.

Scout and Jem learn empathy throughout the book. In chapter three, Scout learns from Atticus that she shouldn't judge others until she "walks around in their skin." This comes after a particularly frustrating first day of school. Later in the book, Jem (and to some extent, Scout, too) learns empathy from his encounters with Mrs. Dubose. The children originally view Mrs. Dubose as a horrible, irredeemably mean old lady. By the time they learn of her death, and after a discussion with Atticus about her illness and morphine addiction, Jem and Scout come to understand the unique strength and humanity she actually had. Finally, the experience of Tom Robinson's trial gives an ultimate lesson in sympathy, showing the children how to "walk around" in the "skin" of Tom Robinson, Mayella Ewell, and a number of other Maycomb residents.

Scout and Jem also learn of the deep racial injustice that poisons their community. The experiences of the trial (and its outcome), visiting Calpurnia's church, witnessing the jailhouse mob, and more show the children how deeply divided Maycomb is.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team