Courage and the development of maturity are two main universal themes, which teach people about life. There is courage in almost every single character in this book. Jem, Scout and Dill learn real courage in their childhood and are forced to face the reality at young age and understand it. Difficult for children filled with innocence in their heart, to understand the reality of unfairness. However, they did see it through people living in Maycomb and watching the trial. Jem is able to conquer his fear of Mrs. Dubose when he was able to apologize to her.
Scout has the courage to run to her father when people were trying to harm Atticus. Atticus has courage to stand for what he believes even though the whole community believes it was wrong. The development of maturity shows great change and achievements in one’s life. Scout in the beginning is a young innocent child. But as she experiences different situations and faces their reality, she gains the knowledge about life and her understanding allows her to grow. In the exploration of human morality, the book presents a constant conversation regarding the inherent goodness or evilness of people.
Atticus, father of Scout and Jem, believes that people usually contain aspects of both good and evil, but that good will usually prevail. Atticus teaches this to his children, but also to the town, as he works to defend Tom Robinson, an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. This is a Herculean task. Despite the challenge of overcoming the town’s deeply ingrained racism and forcing people to change their social perspectives, Atticus struggles on, because he believes that one day, goodness will prevail over the evils of racism and racial equality will exist. “Atticus derived a reasonable income from the law.
He liked Maycomb, he was Maycomb County born and bred; he knew his people, they knew him, and because of Simon Finch’s industry, Atticus was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in the town. ” (Page 5) Atticus takes great pride in instilling a powerful sense of morality in his children. He truthfully answers whatever questions they ask, treating them as adults and encouraging them to grow intellectually and morally as much as possible. Scout and the other children have a very clear understanding of the social inequalities in their town, but see these inequalities as natural and permanent.
The Finch family falls rather high up in the social hierarchy, while the Ewell family falls at the bottom. However, this hierarchy only includes white people. Maycomb’s black population falls beneath all white families in Maycomb, including the Ewells, whom Atticus labels as “trash”. Scout understands this social structure, but doesn’t understand why it is so. She believes that everyone should be treated the same, no matter what family they are from. For instance, when she wants to spend more time with Walter Cunningham, Aunt Alexandra objects saying no Finch girl should ever consort with a Cunningham.
Scout is frustrated by this, as she wants to be able to choose her own friends based on her definition of what makes a good person: morality. “Walter Cunningham was sitting there lying his head off. He didn’t forget his lunch, he didn’t have any. He had none today nor would he have any tomorrow or the next day. He had probably never seen three quarters together at the same time in his life. ” (Page 20) Walter Cunningham, himself, was shy and fearful of speaking to the teacher. Scout overcame the fears that plagued the remainder of the class, and acted out of Walter’s best interest.
Her courage spoke in Walter’s absence and inability to express his monetary situation. Atticus urges his children to try to step into other people’s shoes to understand how they see the world. Atticus defines courage as “instead of getting this idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. ” (112) Scout illustrates the courage she embodies. She takes the duty of informing Miss Caroline of Walter Cunningham’s situation.
Miss Caroline had just scolded Scout for her ability to read. Most children at her age would fear speaking to the teacher is such a bold fashion. Scout shows advanced maturity for her age, and this allows her to successfully act upon her courage, rather than suppressing its existence. When Mrs. Dubose, the mean old woman who lives down the street from the Finch family yells at Jem and Scout on her way to town, Jem reacts by cutting up all the flowers in her front yard. His punishment is to read to Mrs. Dubose every day.
He complains to Atticus that she is an awful woman, but Atticus tells Jem and Scout to try to understand Mrs. Dubose’s point of view. She is an old woman, very set her in ways, and she is entirely alone in the world. Jem and Scout agree to visit her. After Mrs. Dubose dies, Atticus reveals that by reading to her each day, the children were helping her break her morphine addiction. Atticus explains that Mrs. Dubose was fighting to regain sobriety, even as she stood on the brink of death. To Atticus, she is the bravest person he has ever known.
He explains this to the children to try to make them understand the pain she was experiencing, and how their presence helped her through the process. Although she might have said some awful things, Atticus encourages the children to try to see the world from her perspective and to understand how brave and strong she was. When Scout and Jem receive air guns for Christmas, Atticus tells them that although he would prefer that they practice their shooting with tin cans, if they must shoot at living things, they must never shoot at mockingbirds.
Atticus explains that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Miss Maudie explains why Atticus is correct; mockingbirds never do anyone any harm, and are not pests in any way. All they do is sing beautifully and live peacefully. Therefore, it is a sin to kill them. The mockingbird comes to represent true goodness and purity. Tom Robinson is one example of a human “mockingbird”. As he stands accused of raping and beating Mayella Ewell, but is innocent of the charges. The town commits the ultimate sin by finding him guilty and sentencing him to death. In effect, they have killed a mockingbird.
Boo Radley is another example of a human “mockingbird”. Jeremy described Boo Radley as “[he] [is] about six-and-a- half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch and that is why his hands were bloodstained. “(P13) He has spent his entire life as a prisoner of his own home because his father was overzealous in punishing him for a childhood mistake. Boo Radley observes the world around him, causing no harm to anyone, and then saves Jem and Scout’s lives when Bob Ewell attacks. “The first thing was that Mr.
Bob Ewell acquired and lost a job in a matter of days and probably made himself unique in the annals of the nineteen-thirties: he was the only man I ever herd of who was fired from the WPA for laziness. ” (Page 248) The sheriff determines that Ewell’s death will be ruled an accident to avoid forcing Boo to go to trial, even though Boo killed him to protect the children. Atticus agrees, and wants to make sure Scout understands why this little white lie must be told. She replies saying of course she understands, putting Boo on trial and in the public sphere would be like killing a mockingbird.
The mockingbird represents true goodness and innocence that should always be protected. Scout and Jem make the transition from innocence to maturity. They approach life innocently believing in the goodness of all people, thinking everyone understands and adheres to the same values they and their father do. During Tom Robinson’s trial, the children are sorely disappointed when the jury, made up of their fellow townspeople, convict the innocent Tom Robinson simply because he is a black man and his accuser is white.
The realization that there is true evil within their society shakes Jem to the core. He held a strong belief in the goodness of all people, but after the trial must reevaluate his understanding of human nature. The challenge of this struggle causes him great emotional pain as he tries to come to terms with disappointing realities of inequality, racism, and general unfairness. Scout also struggles to understand these things, but even following the trial, is able to maintain her belief in the goodness of human nature.
At the end of the book, Scout escorts Boo Radley back to his home. After Boo closes the door, she turns around and views the neighborhood from his perspective. She imagines everything she had witnessed in the past few years, her and Jem running by the house on their way to and from school, her childhood Boo Radley games, Miss Maudie’s fire, the incident of the rabid dog, and finally, Bob Ewell’s attack. As she steps into Boo’s shoes, Scout gains a new respect for his life, and understands that his experience is just as valid as hers. With this understanding, she is humbled.
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