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Importance Of Perspective In To Kill A Mockingbird

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1267
  • Category: Empathy

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Sterling K. Brown once said: “ Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective”. Empathy is when a person tries to understand the feelings and experiences of another person; it goes beyond sympathy, which is when one feels bad about what another person is facing. Empathy is when one tries to understand the struggle a person is facing and even thinks about how one could help. The realistic fiction novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, is narrated by 6-year-old Jean Louise (Scout) Finch, who witnesses Segregation in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s, right in the middle of Great Depression. Scout and her father show empathy towards Boo, an introvert and outcast, and Mrs. Dubose, a drug addict, racist, old woman, respectively.

The reader learns to view things from different angles and try to put themselves into the situation. Atticus shows empathy towards Mrs. Dubose even though she says several nasty things about Atticus and the children. “Don’t you say hey to me, you ugly girl!… Yes indeed, what has this world come to when a Finch goes against his raising?… Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” (Lee 135). However, Atticus still respects her. Every time Atticus and the children walk pass by her house, he would still greet her politely. “Good Evening, Mrs. Dubose! You look like a picture this evening”(Lee 133). When Jem asks Atticus why he treats Mrs. Dubose nicely even when she says nasty comments about him, he says, “She’s an old lady and she’s ill. You just hold your head high and be a gentleman.“ (Lee 133) Jem does not follow his advice and ruins Mrs. Dubose’s flowers. As a result, he is told to read to Mrs. DuBose every day for two hours for a month. Jem certainly didn’t want to, but Atticus knew reading to Mrs. Dubose would distract her from needing morphine, and help her to recover from her drug addiction and leave this world “beholden to nothing and nobody” (Lee 149). From his encounter with Mrs. Dubose, Jem learns that there is more to people than just what they show on the surface. He discovers that Mrs. Dubose is, in reality, is a woman of extreme courage. Empathy is both learned and demonstrated by Scout.

Scout learns empathy from her father, Atticus. He taught her to look at situations from other people’s point of view. “First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” (Lee 29). What one show on the outside might always be what’s on the inside. Even though Bob Ewell spat at Atticus and was always rude to him, Atticus still empathizes with him. “Neighbors bring food with death and flower with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a pair of good-luck pennies… and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad. I turned to go home. Street lights winked down the street all the way to town. I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle… Daylight… in my mind, the night faded…Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just stand on the Radley porch was enough.”( Lee 374).

Scout knows that Jem did not have a good time going to the Radley’s, especially when he is someone who is desperately afraid of the place. Scout did not bother to make Jem tell her what happened. Scout realizes that Boo had given Jem and her so many gifts and they’ve never given anything to him. When she was standing on the Radley’s porch, she looked at the place that she thought she was so familiar with, and where she grew up. However, she had never seen the place from this angle. She looked and understood how Boo felt all these years when he was looking from inside the house. The summertime when they play in the yard, the fall when the children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose, winter when the children shivered at the front gate. She looked imagined things looking at them from Boo’s perspective.

Scout didn’t fully understand the meaning of empathy when she first learned about it. However, as the book goes on, we see that she not only understands it, she could also apply it into her life. The message being told to the reader is that empathy is when one look at another’s problem and understands. This is important because it links between self and others, it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. It helps us understand how others are feeling so we can respond/act appropriately to the situation. Atticus once said that empathy is “when you climb into one’s skin.” “He was real nice’ ‘most people are, Scout, when you finally see them” (Lee 376). “Atticus reached down and picked up the candy box. He handed it to Jem. Jem opened the box. Inside, surrounded by wads of damp cotton, was a white, waxy, perfect camellia. It was a Snow-on-the-Mountain. ” (Lee 148). Atticus told Scout that most people are very nice, but one must have empathy. Here, he was referring to Boo Radley, at the beginning of the book, when Scout and Jem never met Boo in person but was frightened of him because of the rumors about him. But, when they actually meet him, he was someone who has given them many gifts and even saved their lives. When Mrs. Dubose, the mean old lady died, she left a white flower for Jem, Atticus says that Mrs. Dubose is the bravest person he knows, because she battles her illness every day.

When she gives Jem the flower, she is passing that bravery on to him. Even though many people demonstrate empathy, there are still some who don’t. “while coming out of the courthouse that night Miss Gates was–she was goin’ down the steps in front of us, you musta not seen her–she was walking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it’s time probably somebody taught’em a lesson, they were gettin‘ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an‘ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home—” (Lee 331). Bob Ewell did not even have a bit of empathy for Tom Robinson when innocent Tom gets killed and blamed. People in Maycomb not only did not have empathy, they even wanted more black people to be punished like Tom. They hated Hitler, who killed more than 10 million Jewish people, but ironically while they hate Hitler and the things he did, they sneer at people who died in their own town just because they are not the same race.

The historical fiction novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, is a story which informs readers about empathy. Two of the main characters, Scout and Atticus learn and demonstrate empathy.The readers learn that empathy is the ability to share in the way others feel. Empathy in the book is defined as when one really wants to understand another, one has to understand their feelings and put themselves in the situation.

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