The Different Life Lessons in To Kill a Mockingbird, a Novel by Harper Lee
The novel To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee, is a story centered around two children and the experiences they have growing up. The novel contains several dynamic characters who ma- ture in their actions and beliefs. These individuals grow during the course of the novel through the relationships they have, the difficult lessons they learn, and the events that are happening in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Over the three years in which To Kill a Mockingbird takes place, Scout and Jem learn im- portant life lessons as they are influenced by prejudice, injus- tice, and revenge, all the while guided by the consistent role model of their father, Atticus Finch.
Throughout the novel Scout learns many valuable lessons as she begins to mature into a young lady. In the beginning of the story, Scout is a tomboy, preferring to be outside playing with her brother and their friend Dill than to be inside acting like a lady. For example, during recess Scout shows off her temper and boyish qualities when she is beating up Walter Cunningham: “Catching Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard gave me some plea- sure, but when I was rubbing his nose in the dirt Jem came by and told me to stop” (Lee 30). Early on, Scout has trouble getting along with others and therefore she often times resorts to using her fists instead of her words.
However, Scout is greatly influ-enced by their father, Atticus, as a role model, and his parent- ing style of leading by example and being honest with the chil- dren. Atticus acts the same way in the house as he does in public and he teaches Scout and Jem justice, in a world full of injus- tice. After Scout has a bad day at school, Atticus spreads his always positive attitude as he instills important life lessons: “‘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 39). Atticus is teaching Scout to see the world from others’ perspectives and therefore to be able to un- derstand what other people are going through.
An example of this for Scout is when Bob Ewell attempts revenge on Atticus by harm- ing his children. When Atticus is trying to explain to Scout why he and Heck Tate don’t want to turn in Boo Radley after he kills Bob Ewell in the defense of Scout and Jem, Scout shows that she understands: ”Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird wouldn’t it'” (Lee 370)? Scout expresses her comprehension by say- ing that convicting Boo Radley as the real killer would be like taking a mockingbird that never harmed anyone, and killing it. Throughout Lee’s novel, Scout greatly grows through her experi- ences and through the influence of her father Atticus, allowing her at the end of the story.
As the novel progresses, Scout’s older brother, Jem also be- gins to mature and grow into a young man as he is affected by the prejudice and injustice that exists in Maycomb. In the early stages of the novel, Jem is simply a young boy who likes to play outside and obsess about his mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley, but as he grows and matures he begins to act more manly and be more protective of his family. Jem is a huge believer in justice and as he grows and sees that quite often justice is not met due to the racial and economic divide that exists in the community. Af- ter Jem watches Tom falsely accused and convicted of rape, he breaks down into tears, unable to contemplate the reason for his unjust conviction, he talks to Atticus: “‘How could they do it, how could they?’
‘I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it– seems that only children weep’ (Lee 285). He has learned by the example of his father to treat everyone equally and with respect, but he sees prejudice everywhere in his community, and through Tom Robinson’s case he is forced to accept the jury’s decision, learning to live with injustice. Through the novel, Jem wrestles with injustice, but he eventually does see the good that is in- side many when his mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley, saves their lives. Jem sees first hand the injustice and prejudice that ex-ists in abundance in his community and this changes him and his faith in humanity.
Scout and Jem both go through significant changes throughout the novel as they learn life lessons, allowing them to greatly mature. They are both affected by the prejudice and injustice that is present in their community and they are guided through their feelings and beliefs by their father, Atticus, who is an exemplary role model for the children. Today, many youth are growing up with similar influences of injustice and prejudice around them. Although times have evolved, as youth struggle with harsh lessons today, if they have a steady guide and mentor like Atticus, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, they have a much better chance of maturing well, learning positively from these lessons.