Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What language techniques are used in this quote from "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

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In this particular quotation, Atticus is using a metaphor to teach his children the importance of empathy. He himself expresses great empathy in his behavior towards other people, most notably the mean old lady Mrs. Dubose.

Most people are familiar with the expression "to walk a mile in someone else's shoes" meaning that you can only really judge someone when you put yourself in their position and when you understand their background and the circumstances in which they've grown-up and in which they live. The metaphor that Atticus uses is a variant of this. At numerous points throughout the story he impresses upon his children just how important it is for them to gain a new perspective on life if they're to evaluate others properly. This is a vital lesson as it will allow Jem and Scout to grow and develop morally as they begin the difficult transition to adolescence.

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Give examples of the following quote: "You never really understand a person until you consider things form his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Atticus gives this moral advice to Scout in chapter 3. Prejudice is prominent in Maycomb, and he recognizes the importance of understanding multiple perspectives and sympathizing with others—both as a lawyer and as a human being. Black people living in the town are particularly vulnerable to prejudgment. This is a significant factor that shapes the trial of Tom Robinson, a man falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman.

Even Atticus is judged by the town for defending a black man; for instance, Mrs. Dubose tells Jem that his "father is no better" than those he defends.

Bob Ewell is a viciously racist and prejudiced man himself, yet his family is largely ridiculed and alienated by the town for their impropriety and poor status.

Lastly, the town is critical of Boo (Arthur) Radley, who is frequently the subject of gossip. Boo Radley is considered unusual, never leaves his house, and has become a subject of fear. In the end, Boo Radley saves Jem and Scout from an attack by Bob Ewell, and the children discover that Boo is a kind, misunderstood man.

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