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Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1150 words - 5 pages

To Stand on the Porch

TKaM essay
Modern Literature
        Throughout the events of the trial in Maycomb, Atticus’s most important advice for Scout is that “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, 30)  As the society’s prejudices surround Scout and Jem, Atticus encourages them to cultivate respect within themselves; not only for other races, but for everyone.  Throughout “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee traces out Scout’s growing respect for outsiders, for her aggressors, and eventually for Boo Radley.
        In her first school year, Scout has no respect for anyone different from her.  An example of this is her treatment of Walter Cunningham, which is heedless at best and merciless at worst: after an explanation of Walter’s habits lands her in trouble with Miss Caroline, she finds him in the schoolyard later and attacks him.  After Jem invites Walter to dinner, Scout shows scorn for Walter’s revived dignity, commenting, “By the time we reached our front steps Walter had forgotten he was a Cunningham.” (Lee, 23)  She shows marked disapproval for the way he eats, and she decides to eat in the kitchen rather than join Walter and the others at the dinner table.  However, as Scout gains experience and maturity, she begins to put aside her differences from others.  She becomes friends with Walter, and she asks Aunt Alexandra if she can play with him.  Aunt Alexandra appalls Scout with the same prejudice towards the Cunninghams that Scout held two years before: “Jean Louise will not invite Walter Cunningham to this house…Because--he--is--trash, that’s why you can’t play with him.  I’ll not have you around him, picking up his habits and learning Lord-knows-what.” (Lee, 224)  The very fact that Scout reacts so strongly to this insult is testament to her growing respect for Walter.
        In all occurrences surrounding the trial, Scout receives insults and hardship from those around her.  Her initial reaction to this treatment is direct opposition: at Finch’s Landing, the moment Francis Finch begins to insult Atticus, Scout loses her temper and punches him.  She echoes her passion to defend Atticus to Uncle Jack: “the way Francis said it - tell you one thing right now, Uncle Jack, I’ll be - I swear before God if I’ll sit there and let him say somethin’ about Atticus.” (Lee, 86)  As the trial draws nearer, Scout and Jem receive more and more heat disrespect from others, and when they begin to make trips past Mrs. Dubose’s house, they encounter their worst opposition of all.  Mrs. Dubose mercilessly and ceaselessly rails upon them, calling down curses regarding their character, their father, their fates, and most everything else.  However, Atticus tells them to not only endure it, but act nobly toward Mrs. Dubose in spite of her curses.  This has an initially slight, but very important effect upon Scout.  She learns, slowly, to face...

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