Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How is a sense of belonging conveyed in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Although Maycomb is a sleepy little town with little to do, and it is filled with many citizens inflicted by "the ususal disease" (racism), it is a place where most of the people are happy to belong. Atticus has spent his whole life in Maycomb County, and he

... was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in the town.

As the moral conscience of Maycomb, Atticus is, according to Miss Maudie, one of the

"... men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us...
     "We're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we've got men like Atticus to go for us."

Dill is happiest when comes to stay summers with his Aunt Rachel, and he becomes fast friends with Jem and Scout. When he has problems at home, he runs away to Maycomb, where he feels most secure. Calpurnia, the Finch's black maid, is considered a member of the family, and Atticus vehemently defends her when his sister, Alexandra, tries to have her fired. Even when Alexandra comes to stay with Atticus,

     Maycomb welcomed her...
     When she settled in with us and life resumed its daily pace, Aunt Alexandra seemed as if she had always lived with us.

When Miss Maudie's house burns down, Miss Stephanie (with whom Maudie is often at odds) invites her to live in her home. Even Nathan Radley returns from his life in Pensacola to retain custody of brother Boo, and he settles in to Maycomb life in the usual Radley style.

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What aspects of To Kill a Mockingbird influence Scout's sense of belonging?

Scout feels a sense of belonging because of two important aspects in her life: family and community. 

  • Family

That family is important to Scout is evinced from the first chapter in which she describes her family lineage. After describing her ancestors and explaining that her mother died suddenly from a heart attack, Scout remarks that she and Jem find "our father satisfactory." And, although Scout complains of Calpurnia's "tyrannical presence" there is a hint of fondness for the black maid who has been around "as long as I couild remember."

Throughout Harper Lee's narrative, it is apparent that Scout loves her father, Atticus, dearly and is close to her older brother Jem. For instance, in an evening ritual, Scout sits with Atticus and reads the Mobile Register, and without fear Scout asks him about whatever troubles her. In Chapter 24, Scout observes, "I was at home in my father's world."

Important to Scout are traditional get-togethers, such as Christmas reunions with her Uncle Jack, who spends a week with Atticus's family. They are reunited at Finch's Landing where Aunt Alexandra is present with her grandson Francis, Scout's second cousin.  However, Scout does not develop a relationship with Aunt Alexandra until the trial of Tom Robinson, at which time Alexandra exhibits her concern for her brother. Because of the love that she demonstrates for her brother Atticus, Scout begins to view Alexandra with a different perspective. At the Missionary Tea in Chapter...

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24, Scout notices that her aunt gives Miss Maudie a look of "pure gratitude." She remarks,

...I was content to learn that Aunt Alexandra could be pierced sufficiently to feel gratitutde for help given....

There is no question that Scout's family provides love and stability in her life. She and Jem rush to protect their father when he is in danger such as the night that Atticus is posted before the jailhouse door. Little Scout remembers what Atticus has told her about entitlements and she individualizes Mr. Cunningham, asking him about his entitlements. This singling of him from the mob causes Mr. Cunningham embarrassment and he calls to the other men to leave with him, thus ending the tension of the evening. Likewise, Jem calls to Atticus when the men assemble oddly in the Finch front yard.

Further in the novel, as she listens to him and watches her father in the courtroom  during the trial of Tom Robinson, Scout's respect for Atticus grows as she analyzes her father's actions and words,

Slowly but surely I began to see the pattern of Atticus's question....Atticus was quiet building up before the jury a picture of the Ewells' home life.

The final paragraphs end with Scout's mention of her loving father, who pulls up the covers and tucks in his little daughter. Scout notices that he goes to Jem's room, where he will keep watch over his injured son until he wakes in the morning.

  • Community 

In her neighborhood, Scout and Jem are very close to Miss Maudie, a friend of Atticus and a surrogate grandmother to the children, who provides loving advice and wisdom. 

During the trial, as they sit in the balcony with the black community, the Reverend Sykes keeps a fatherly watch over them. Similarly, Mr. Raymond consoles Dill when he cries about Tom Robinson's cruel treatment in court. After Tom's death, Mr. Deas gives Helen Robinson a job.

Boo Radley feels responsibility to the children, saving them from Ewell. Sheriff Tate, too, acts with the welfare of the town in mind.

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What aspects of To Kill a Mockingbird influence Scout's sense of belonging?

What threatens Scout's sense of belonging is the incredibly complex adult world she becomes increasingly aware of through the course of the story. Why is it that the white community should not find Tom Robinson innocent when it is obvious to her that he did not commit the crime he was accused of? Why are there such inconsistencies in the world, such as the white women of the church who support mission in Africa but treat the African Americans in Maycomb with such derision and disrespect? Scout, during the course of the novel, finds that she enters an incredibly confusing world full of contradictions that do not have easy resolutions.

However, one aspect of the text that clearly identifies a powerful source of belonging that helps Scout to feel secure and loved and a part of Maycomb is her father, Atticus, and the love that he has for both of his children. A very key moment in the novel that demonstrates this is the final conversation Scout has with Atticus in Chapter 31, where she describes the ending of a book she has been reading in which someone is falsely accused of a crime and it is only when he is caught that his innocence is proven:

“When they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things... Atticus, he was real nice...” His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.” He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

Belonging to Scout is reinforced by the constant love of Atticus, that is demonstrated through his devotion to his children. But belonging is also demonstrated through the moral teachings that Atticus instills in his children: he reminds Scout of his essential faith in humanity and the way that, when prejudices and assumptions can be removed, the majority of humans are good and decent people. Such important principles help Scout to feel a sense of belonging in this strange adult world she is entering.

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