Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Instances where Scout applies Atticus's lesson about empathy in "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Summary:

Scout applies Atticus's lesson about empathy when she stands in Boo Radley's shoes, understanding his actions and reclusiveness. She also demonstrates empathy by understanding Mayella Ewell's loneliness and why she accused Tom Robinson. These instances show Scout learning to see things from others' perspectives, a core lesson from Atticus.

Expert Answers

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

Name three instances where Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird follows Atticus's advice about empathy.

Once Scout’s father has given her the advice to look at things from the other person’s perspective, she tries to put it into practice.

One place we see this effort develop is in her changing attitude toward Arthur ("Boo") Radley. After he starts leaving things in the tree’s knothole, Scout starts to look at him as a person rather than believing the gossip that circulates in town. Her full understanding of his humanity comes at the novel’s end, when he visits their home after saving their lives.

After Calpurnia takes the Finch children to her church one Sunday, Scout’s image of their housekeeper expands considerably. She begins to realize that Cal has to live a double life. At first, she criticizes Cal’s manner of speech among her neighbors, but she then expresses desire to become more familiar with her personal life, asking if she can visit her home sometime.

Although the experience with Mrs. Dubose that prompts Atticus to lecture them about empathy affects Jem more directly, as he has to read to her, it also has an impact on Scout. She accompanies her brother to the elderly woman’s home. Even though her father says she does not have to go after she says she is scared, she continues to do so. The daily contact helps Scout develop empathy.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Name three instances where Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird follows Atticus's advice about empathy.

In chapter 18, Scout sees Mayella take the stand and empathizes with her.  She states that she might even be the loneliest person in the world.  As Atticus questions her, Scout (and the reader) get a view into her wretched life.  Yet, Scout doesn't condemn her.  She just feels sorry for her because of all that she has been through.

Another example is at the end of chapter 24.  Scout is trying to do her part and fit in as a young lady (she is wearing a dress and trying to act lady-like) as Aunt Alexandra has her circle of friends over for tea.  Even though several of the ladies are being hypocritical, Scout bites her tongue.  She even takes several insults quietly.  She is trying to step into her Aunt's skin and behave as a proper Finch lady should.  This is revealed at the end of the chapter when Scout declares (after learning of Tom's death) that if her aunt could act like a lady at a time like this, she could too.

A final example of Scout taking Atticus's advice is in the last chapter.  After walking Boo home, she stops and looks at his window.  Then she imagines what it must have been like to be Boo, watching the kids play outside day after day.  Then she realizes how vital they were to him.  For when he saw they were in danger, he came to aid them.  This is a powerful way to help conclude the novel, for it shows that Scout has truly started to empathize with others.

Click on the links below to see the chapters and examples discusses in greater depth.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are three instances in "To Kill a Mockingbird" where Scout applies Atticus' lesson about empathy?

In Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, one of Atticus's most often repeated lessons of life to his children concerns his explanation that one must climb into another person's skin and walk around in it to completely understand them.

"If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

Atticus first refers to this strategy in Chapter 3 when he convinces Scout not to give up on school or her teacher, Miss Caroline, who had criticized Atticus earlier. His lecture also covers Scout's feelings about Walter Cunningham, who joined the Finch children for lunch that day. Scout applied it herself during Jem's change of behavior in Chapter 7 after his harrowing visit to the Radley house to regain his lost pants.

I tried to climb into Jem's skin and walk around in it: if I had gone alone to the Radley Place at two in the morning, my funeral would have been held the next afternoon. So I left Jem alone and tried not to bother him. 

And Scout applied it when she finally got to meet Boo and walk him home after he had saved her life.

Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

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
Last Updated on