Ava Stanek Stanek 1
To Kill a Mockingbird Essay
Lesson. The word lesson, brings the thought of a lecture given by a teacher. But, Learning and education do not always come from teachers and classrooms, countless lessons can be learned from interactions in our day to day lives with people who do not even know that they are teaching others. Many characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, teach Jem and Scout Finch significant lessons, some moral some immoral. Characters from To Kill a Mockingbird that teach Jem and Scout Finch lessons are Mrs. Dubose, Atticus Finch, and Tom Robinson.
Mrs. Dubose teaches Jem and Scout Finch several lessons through the book To Kill a Mockingbird. She teaches the Finch children the vital lesson of courage. Courage is a strong theme in To Kill a Mockingbird. The South during the 1930s was a place of rules, traditions, and expectations, and the people that challenged this way of life were mocked. This was true for the racial divide between whites and blacks. Scout and Jem have a hard time understanding this, especially when they are treated with disrespect after their father takes on the Tom Robinson case. But, Atticus uses these circumstances as teachable moments to show his children how to handle situations that require self-control and courage. Atticus never places blame on whites or blacks because, as he teaches his children, you never know what another person is going through. “Instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you
know 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. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety- eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.” (Lee, 112) Atticus says this to Jem after the death of Mrs. Dubose, the woman to whom Jem has been reading aloud to for the past month as a punishment for his own lack of self-control. Atticus reveals that Mrs. Dubose was addicted to painkillers but was determined to overcome her addiction before dying; he made Jem read to her as a distraction from her pain. (“What Are Three Ways That Mrs. Dubose Is Courageous in To Kill a Mockingbird?”) The vision of courage challenges Jem’s understanding of courage as male superiority. Mrs. Dubose had a flaw to fix, and she stuck to it which was how she was able to overcome it. She died beholden to nothing. Mrs. Dubose stuck to her views, they were not necessarily correct, but she still stuck to what she thought was morally right. Mrs. Dubose had human dignity. She had a personal battle to overcome and she held herself accountable. Lastly, Mrs. Dubose had self-control. Towards the end of her life she realizes that actions lead to consequences. She became addicted, and wanted to control her impulses. (“What Are Three Ways That Mrs. Dubose Is Courageous in To Kill a Mockingbird?”) She controlled her impulses unknown to the Finch children, by having Jem read to her to get her mind off of the pain.
Atticus Finch has taught Jem and Scout Finch many lessons. One of these lessons is perspective. (Grant, Stacey.) Scout Finch, learns the value of education as her father, Atticus, teaches her to read and instructs her in life lessons. On her first day of school, she realizes through her new teacher, Caroline Fisher that not all adults deal
with people the same way. While both Atticus and Caroline share similarities in their professions and position in the community, their teaching concepts and ways of dealing with people are very different. While Atticus encourages his children to work toward their highest potential, Caroline is dedicated to specific ideals. For example, when she finds out Scout knows how to read, she demands that Scout tell Atticus to stop teaching her because he doesn’t know how. (Morgan, Kori.) When Scout comes home from school, she has a conversation with Atticus. “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.” (Lee, 87) As Scout grows older, she also becomes wiser. (Standing in a Persons Shoes – To Kill a Mockingbird.”) Scout’s perspective of Boo Radley changes. She realizes that Boo is not an animal eating monster, instead, she comes to recognize that he has a kind soul, and by the end of the novel sees him as the protector of both Jem and herself. She slowly recognizes that Boo wants to be their friend. At the night of the Halloween festival, Scout had already come to the conclusion that Boo was a friendly but odd loner who preferred life inside. After the attack, Scout quotes, “Atticus was right… you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” (Lee, 284) Scout comes to the conclusion that the reason Boo stays inside is because he is afraid of what the world has become. Inside, in his own little world, he is safe.
Tom Robinson taught Jem and Scout many lessons. The main lesson he teaches the children, is good does not always conquer evil. As Scout is watching Tom
Robinson’s trial, she is taught about the racial bias that exists in her community. Scout begins to know the adult world of Maycomb as there are things that differ from her earlier perspective. (How Has Tom Robinson Taught Scout Life Lessons in To Kill a Mockingbird?) For example, she is shocked that the Ewell family would lie under oath, yet they are rewarded reliability by the jury. (Standing in a Persons Shoes – To Kill a Mockingbird.”) Scout is also surprised when the Ewell family is rude to a man who was kind to Mayella. Yet again, the Ewells are regarded with more respect, than Tom Robinson who testifies honestly. (How Has Tom Robinson Taught Scout Life Lessons in To Kill a Mockingbird?”) The most crucial example for Scout is the racial bias towards the one- armed Tom who could not have possibly beaten Mayella as charged. While Tom was honest, the jury still allowed the Ewells to lie on the stand. “You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?” (Lee, 126) When Tom is put on the stand, he states that he felt sorry for Mayella, because she had no one to help her. When he says this, it is a mistake because for a black man to feel pity for a white women means that he feels superior to her. (How Has Tom Robinson Taught Scout Life Lessons in To Kill a Mockingbird?) Finally, Scout learns the meaning of her father’s words about it being a sin to kill a mockingbird. Tom Robinson is the innocent bird trying to escape from prison. His trial was nothing less than a sarcastic attempt at justice. Tom knew he was convicted from the start of the proceedings due to the secret courts of men’s hearts. He was the innocent bird trying to escape the reality that he was never going to be free. (“To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes by Atticus Finch, Scout, Jem and Miss Maudie”)
In conclusion, there are many characters in the Harper Lee classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird that teach Scout and Jem Finch important lessons. A few of those characters are Mrs. Dubose, Atticus Finch, and Tom Robinson. They teach the vital lessons of courage, perspective, and that good does not always conquer evil.
Ava Stanek Stanek 1