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Scout's Moral Growth in To Kill a Mockingbird
Transcript of Scout's Moral Growth in To Kill a Mockingbird
Early in the novel, Scout is established as being tough and fighting boys often. When Cecil Jacobs insults Atticus, Scout wants to fight him, but Atticus asks her to not fight anyone, despite what they say about him. Scout remembers this the next time Cecil Jacobs provokes her and decides to not fight him and take the moral high road.
Similar to her confrontation with Cecil, Scout is provoked by her cousin Francis during Christmas at Finch's Landing when he insults Atticus. However, this time, she attacks him instead of walking away. Uncle Jack breaks up the fight, and does not understand that Francis started it. When they go back home, as Uncle Jack bandages her hand, Scout explains to him that Francis provoked it, but doesn't want him to tell Atticus because Atticus previously told her not to let anything she heard about him bother her.
Bothering Boo Radley
The next summer, in an attempt to communicate with Boo Radley, Jem tries to give him a note using a fishing pole telling him to come outside. Scout and Dill stood in the area keeping watch, but they are still caught by Atticus. Atticus tells them to stop tormenting Boo, and that it is wrong to bother him. This starts to shape Scout's perception of and future interactions with Boo.
Scout's First Day of School
Throughout the novel
To Kill a Mockingbird
, one of the main themes is moral growth. This is exhibited well in the character Scout, as she sees many pivotal moments in her development during her experiences as a child.
Scout's Moral Growth in
To Kill a Mockingbird
"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.”
- Atticus (p. 33)
Early in the novel, on Scout's first day of school, she has multiple issues with her teacher, Miss Caroline, mainly about her ability to read. Later, as she talks to Atticus about it, he tells her to view the situation from Miss Caroline's point of view. After this, she understands and says
"I'll be dogged, I didn't know no better than not to read to her, and she held me responsible,"
showing that she has learned tact.
"Furthermore, had it never occurred to us that the civil way to communicate
with another being was by the front door instead of a side window?"
"Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem
and me to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him. I felt
extremely noble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks."
- Scout (p. 87)
“Uncle Jack, please promise me somethin‘, please sir. Promise you won’t tell
Atticus about this. He—he asked me one time not to let anything I heard about
him make me mad, an’ I’d ruther him think we were fightin‘ about somethin’ else
instead. Please promise…”
- Scout (p. 98)
Killing a Mockingbird
While outside playing with the air rifles they received for Christmas, Jem and Scout are told by Atticus that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Atticus says this because they are innocent creatures, a message made clear to the children by Miss Maudie. This advice from her father gives Scout the morals of preserving innocent, harmless creatures, as she shows later in the novel.
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music
for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they
don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
” - Miss Maudie (p. 103)
Visiting Calpurnia's Church
When visiting Calpurnia's church, Scout, Jem, and Cal are confronted by a woman named Lula. Lula is seemingly upset that Calpurnia brought white children to to the colored church, but Lula eventually walks away. This interaction shows Scout that all races can be prejudiced, not just whites against blacks.
"I agreed: they did not want us here. I sensed, rather than saw, that we were being
advanced upon. They seemed to be drawing closer to us, but when I looked up at
Calpurnia there was amusement in her eyes."
The Tea Party
After Tom Robinson's trial, Scout joins Aunt Alexandra and a group of ladies for tea. During this, when asked if she wants to be a lawyer, Scout tells the women that she just wants to be a lady. This is a lie, but it shows that she has learned the tact to lie in order to keep everyone happy, similar to how she did with Miss Caroline earlier in the novel.
"Miss Maudie’s hand touched mine and I answered mildly enough, 'Nome, just a lady.'
Miss Stephanie eyed me suspiciously, decided that I meant no impertinence, and
contented herself with, 'Well, you won’t get very far until you start wearing
dresses more often.'"
Mr. Underwood's Editorial
After Tom Robinson is convicted and later killed attempting to escape prison, Mr. Underwood writes an editorial on Tom's death. His article relates Tom's death to the killing of songbirds, as he was a cripple. After reading this, Scout comes to the realization that Tom never had a chance of winning the trial because of the prejudiced jury. This realization is possibly the most important, as Scout sees the true workings of the world.
"Then Mr. Underwood’s meaning became clear:
Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in
the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case."
Understanding the Mockingbird
After Boo kills Mr. Ewell to save Scout and Jem, Atticus and Heck Tate agree that they will not tell anyone he is responsible. When Atticus asks Scout if she understands, she relates it to killing a mockingbird. This shows that Scout understands the innocence and good intentions of Boo, and understands why they are protecting him.
“Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”
- Scout (p. 317)
Despite being established as a child that enjoyed fighting and playing with Boo Radley in the beginning of the novel, Scout develops through her experiences in the book and takes on her father's values, as well as forming her own values.
After the situation of the attack on the children calms down, Scout walks Boo home. When she gets to his porch, she turns around and realizes how the events of her childhood were from his perspective. She realizes that Boo was never a monster, and was the mockingbird symbol she had come to understand. With this realization, Scout sees that Boo is morally good, and that changes her perspective to reflect the good around her.
By Devin Crowley
“An‘ they chased him ’n‘ never could catch him ’cause they didn’t know what he
looked like, an‘ Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of
those things… Atticus, he was real nice…”
- Scout (p. 323)