Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What three lessons does Scout learn in To Kill a Mockingbird, and how do they affect her maturation?

Expert Answers

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

First, Scout learns her own lesson in prejudice through her interactions with Boo Radley. Without knowing him at all, she, Dill, and Jem decide this reclusive soul is a monstrous and frightening bogeyman. Even with evidences of his kindness staring her in the face—the blanket he puts around her shoulders on the cold night of Miss Maudie's fire and the gifts he leaves for her and Jem, for example—she persists in being frightened of him as a creepy and malevolent being. Only after he saves her and Jem by stabbing Mr. Ewell, who is trying to kill them, does Scout come to realize Boo's goodness.

Second, Scout learns through Atticus that one should not flaunt gifts that are merely granted one through the grace of God. After she looks down on Atticus for not being as young and athletic as her schoolmates' parents, she discovers he is an expert sharpshooter when he kills a rabid dog plaguing the neighborhood. This helps teach her that people can be more than they seem on the outside—as does her experience with Mrs. Dubose.

Finally, Scout learns the lesson that adults don't always behave honorably. She is there throughout the Tom Robinson trial and therefore knows he is innocent, and she has to face the fact that he is convicted unfairly. This, along with the talk she overhears from the Missionary Society ladies, teaches her that public opinion can be wrong and unjust—yet she also learns from Atticus that she must try to get along with her society as far as she can without compromising her moral values.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One important lesson Scout learns is to see things from another person's perspective. Early in the novel Atticus tells her, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Evidence of this lesson is seen when Scout is able to see Boo Radley differently. By the end of the novel, Scout has a better understanding of Boo and is able to consider his feelings.

A second lesson Scout learns is that things are not always what they seem. At first, Scout believes Dolphus Raymond is a drunk. However, during Tom's trial, she learns that Dolphus pretends to drink because it makes people feel better about how they treat him. Again, Scout's relationship with Boo is positively affected by this lesson. She learns not to believe the tales about Boo shared by other neighbors.

Finally, a third lesson allows Scout to form a new definition of bravery. Scout is quite a fighter and sometimes tries to solve problems with her fists. However, by observing how her father reacts to the ugly words he endures from Mrs. Dubose, Scout shows maturity in how she considers bravery. She witnesses how Atticus always responds respectfully to Mrs. Dubose's insults to both him and his children. She recalls how Atticus shares news from the courthouse with Mrs. Dubose, wishes her a pleasant tomorrow, and then places Scout on his shoulders while still in the presence of Mrs. Dubose. Scout believes that "It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived." Scout learns to show restraint in dealing with problems through this lesson.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

1. Following Scout's rough first day at school, Atticus teaches Scout an important lesson on perspective by encouraging her to perceive various situations from other people's point of view. Scout applies Atticus's lesson and develops empathy and understanding towards others.

2. Scout learns about the importance of protecting innocent beings after listening to her father say, "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird" (Lee, 93). Scout also witnesses her father defend a vulnerable, handicapped black man in court in front of a prejudiced jury. Later in the novel, Scout metaphorically applies her father's lesson and reveals her understanding of the importance of protecting innocent beings after listening to Sheriff Tate explain why he refuses to tell the community about Boo's heroics.

3. Following the mob scene in chapter 15, Atticus teaches his children an important lesson on mob mentality. Scout learns that individuals act differently when they are part of a group and are capable of committing violent acts. Even though Mr. Cunningham was their friend, he was negatively influenced by the mob of men on the previous night.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Three lessons that Scout learns during To Kill a Mockingbird are empathy, self-control and courage. 

First of all, Scout learns empathy on several occasions.  Atticus tells her that she will get along with people better if she learns to think like them.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-…"-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (ch 3)

Scout first learns this when she has a problem with her new teacher Miss Caroline.  She applies it first to understanding Mayella Ewell, and then Boo Radley.

Scout also learns self-control.  Atticus is concerned that Scout is going to lose her head fighting.  He warns her to be careful.

I was far too old and too big for such childish things, and the sooner I learned to hold in, the better off everybody would be. (ch 9)

Eventually, Scout learns to walk away from fist-fights.  She comes to understand that people will look at the world in a different way than she does, but there is nothing she can do about it.  Her father is a good role model in this respect, since he does not fight Bob Ewell even though the man spits in his face.

Finally, Scout learns the importance of courage.  Atticus finds it important to teach his children that courage comes in many forms.

I wanted you to see something about her- I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. (ch 11)

Scout sees this view of courage not just in Mrs. Dubose’s fight addiction, but also her father’s defense of Tom Robinson.  She learns to stand up for what she believes in.

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