Scouting Out Morals Essay

1477 words - 6 pages

Prejudice, courage, and integrity: these are three ideas that apply to life and morality. Authors of novels often address these ideas through the use of literary devices, three of these being the use of characters, symbolism, and point of view. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the use of these three devices clearly demonstrates the ideas. To Kill a Mockingbird is set in Alabama in the 1930's, and tells the story of a young girl called Scout. Lee uses Scout's father, Atticus Finch, described through Scout's eyes, to demonstrate how integrity, courage, and prejudice can shape one's life. Lee strengthens her point about the senselessness of prejudice through the use of symbolism.
It is human nature to do that which comes easy, and this applies to beliefs as well; people often find themselves going along with what the rest of the people accept as true and virtuous, and do not actually take time to consider the values and validity of their viewpoints. Atticus, however, is a man who thinks well about what he chooses to believe and what he teaches his children about morals. An instance of Atticus making the morally correct choice, even though it is harder, is when he chooses to defend a black man named Tom Robinson in a law case. Even though almost every other person Atticus knows thinks it is a bad idea to defend Tom, simply on the basis that he is black, Atticus believes that Tom deserves justice, regardless of the color of his skin. The conflicting viewpoints of Atticus and the people of the town confuses Scout, who is still innocent to the evils of racism and prejudice. When she questions her father about his decision to defend Tom, bringing up the point that “most folks seem to think they're right and [Atticus] is wrong,” (page 139) Atticus replies that it is a case “that goes down to a man's conscience... and [the townspeople] are entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before [he] can live with other folks [he] has got to live with [himself]. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience” (page 139-140). Through Scout's eyes, the right thing to do is listen to the majority, but Atticus's belief in a strong moral code prevents him from doing so, and causes him to see the case of Tom Robinson as it really is. His unbiased perception of the case allows Atticus to act with integrity and defend Tom.
Along with believing strongly in the importance of integrity in one's life, Atticus also appreciates courage in all people. Scout is and young and naïve, and she has not yet experienced many situations in her life that require her to act with courage. This lack of experience leads her to believe that courage has to do with physical strength and things such as winning fights and taking dares. Scout is quick to start a fight if she feels she or her family is being insulted; she believes that this displays bravery, whereas if she were to stop fighting, she would be “committ[ing] herself to a policy...

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