“Jem and Scout learn many lessons about life during the course of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. What do you believe to be the most important? Consider what Atticus and Calpurnia attempt to teach the children during the story.”
During the course of the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, the siblings Scout and Jem learn many important life lessons. They are taught a number of important lessons by adult figures in their life, like Atticus, Calpurnia and many others. The lessons help the children grow and begin to have more of an understanding of why some people do things or act a certain way.
Their lives are filled with lessons about racial equality, what prejudice is and how it affects different people and empathy. Both characters Atticus and Calpurnia do many things to help the children understand how racist people can be when they don’t understand that everyone should be equal despite the colour of their skin.
Most of the white population of Maycomb have stereotyped all of the black population to be liars and untrustworthy. They can’t seem to be trusted just because they look different and therefore are ranked the lowest in the community hierarchy. Most of the white population wouldn’t believe them even if their lives depended on it, “The only thing we’ve got is a black man’s word against the Ewells’. The evidence boils down to you did – I – didn’t” demonstrates that Atticus understands the biased opinion that the jury will have toward the different races partaking in the trial. Scout overhears this and later understands that Atticus meant for her to hear this conversation between her father and uncle. Atticus wanted her to understand that what everyone thought wasn’t necessarily right and that judging someone by their colour is wrong and unjust.
Calpurnia also had a big role in the children understanding that equality is important. When Calpurnia take the children to the church they experience reverse racism “You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillum here – they got their church, we got our’n.” the children experience the territorial side of racism, just as how some white coloured people would treat the coloured people if they dared enter their church. Both of the children gain knowledge of what happens every day and what it’s like to be judged and have something as small as colour held against them.
The two of the children have experiences with some people that help them comprehend the prejudice nature of others. Dolphus Raymond, a man who is married to a black woman has his actions justified because he is known to always be in a drunken stupor. Mr Raymond being in a detrimental state of mind give an explanation to the people of Maycomb as to why he would even think of attending that kind of union. Mr Raymond isn’t really a drunk, but if people found out he wasn’t, they would think even worse of him then they already do, “You mean all you drink in that sack’s Coca-Cola? Just plain Coco-Cola?” Mr Raymond has fooled people into believing that his is a drunken person when all he is drinking is a soft drink. The people of Maycomb need a reason to explain his behaviour so that in their minds he is somewhat forgiven.
As soon as Mr Raymond reaches into his sack for a bottle, because of everyone’s preconceived views they think that he is intoxicated, “It helps if they can latch onto reason… folks can say Dolphus Raymond is in the clutches of whiskey threats why he won’t change his ways.” The children start to understand why some people make others believe a certain thing about someone because it is the lesser of two evils. The double life that he leads teaches Scout about the compromises that people have to make to fit into the image that society deems acceptable. Dolphus Raymond helps the children understand what it I like trying to fit into society even if it means fitting into a drunken image of himself that he isn’t.
A lesson that Atticus teaches his children countless times, to have it ingrained into their being, he teaches them how to be empathetic towards others. The ability to understand other people and understand why people feel the way that they do is something that does not come easy to Scout. She beats up people without a care of their feelings and without looking at it from their point of view, an example of this is when she beats up Walter Cunningham because he made her get into a fight with a teacher in trying to defend him. She had no regard of what he would have been feeling, or why he let her defend him to the extent of a having a fight with their teacher. At the beginning of the novel Atticus attempts to teach Scout what the meaning of empathy is “—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”, he was explain how she would try to empathetic towards others, that she had to try and experience something from the other persons point of view.
By the end of the novel she had developed a deep understanding of what empathy is, she had also experienced it “Atticus was right…you never really know a man until you stand in their shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” Standing on that Radley porch she had a final understanding of why Boo had isolated himself even when he had the chance to go out again. She also understood how hard breaking his isolation was, even if it was only for a little while. Learning to be empathetic is a very hard lesson, for sometimes you physically have to be standing where that person once did.
The lessons that were taught and learned in the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ were very important, reason being that the children would carry them with themselves for the rest of their lives. The lessons are taught by many people like; Calpurnia, Atticus, also from the people you least expect it like; Dolphus Raymond and Arthur Radley (Boo). They began their journey in understanding how important equality is, not showing prejudice because their views may be wrong and showing empathy to others and how they would feel in that situation.