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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Where in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird does Atticus stand in people's shoes and walk around in their skin?

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus very frequently demonstrates by example his firm belief in the need to step into people's shoes and "walk around them," in the need to see things from others' perspectives (Ch. 31). One clear example is seen in his decision to put his all into defending Tom Robinson.

There are several ways in which Atticus is able to see Robinson's accusations and the trial from Robinson's perspective. First, Atticus knows the only evidence being used in the trial is the accounts of the witnesses, Mayella Ewell, Bob Ewell, and Sheriff Heck Taylor. He knows that the testimonies of witnesses, one being the victim, is not enough legal evidence to convict a man; therefore, from Robinson's perspective, he sees the trial as being very unjust. Atticus also knows a bit about what kind of person Robinson is from what Calpurnia says about him. Robinson and his family are members of Calpurnia's church, and she describes his family as "clean-living folks"; therefore, Atticus is able to see the accusation against Robinson from Robinson's perspective and see the unlikelihood of his having committed such a crime. Finally, Atticus knows that Robinson is crippled in his left arm and hand and that all witnesses say Mayella was bruised in her right eye by a man facing her, which would have to be a left-handed man; therefore, Atticus is able to see from Robinson's perspective the impossibility of his being able to commit the crimes he is being accused of and to further see the injustice of bringing him to trial.

A second example of Atticus seeing things from others' perspectives is his ability to value and be respectful to Mrs. Dubose. Mrs. Dubose insults his children each time they walk past, yet Atticus understands that she is very old, very ill, and in a lot of pain, all of which inhibit her from being able to control herself. Because he understands these things, he gives Jem the following advice:

You just hold your head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it's your job not to let her make you mad. (Ch. 11)

He even astounds his children by being able to converse with her cordially each time he sees her. Later, after her death, he explains to his children that she was a morphine addict as a result of prescriptions she received for pain due to illness but was determined to die free of addiction. Because of her determination in the face of imminent death, Atticus saw her as the "bravest person [he] ever knew," which shows us that not only is Atticus able to understand Mrs. Dubose's behavior was the consequence of her pain, but he is also able to value her as a person for her strength of character, because he is able to see things from her perspective, not just his own.

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