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“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee Literary Analysis

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1247
  • Category: Novel

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The novel To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee, presents the view of a young girl growing up in the South during the Great Depression. One of the major characters, Atticus Finch, says, “‘[….] 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). This is a true statement; a person does not know or truly understand a person until they walk around in their shoes. As the novel progresses, many characters see life from the perspective of another. Jean Louise “Scout” Finch sees life from Arthur “Boo” Radley’s perspective. Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell begin to realize they are more alike then they appear to be. Lastly, Jeremy “Jem” Finch and Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose finally have a better understanding of each other once they spend some time together. This allows them to gain a new perspective and understand people more clearly, and become better people.

Scout is finally able to see life through Boo Radley’s perspective at the end of the novel. Scout understands how Boo sees life when she is standing on his front porch. Lee says, “Atticus [is] right. [….] he [says] you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch [is] enough” (279). This quote is from Chapter 31, in which, Scout walks Boo home. It is on the porch that Scout finally sees the world from Boo’s perspective, both mentally and literally. Scout is standing there, thinking about of what events are happening in Maycomb, and how everything appears to Boo. Also at this moment, she realizes that Boo serves as a source of love and protection for her and Jem throughout the novel.

As Scout is falling asleep at the end of the novel, she tells Atticus about a book, The Gray Ghost, “‘[….] an’ Atticus, when they finally [see] him, why he [is not doing] any of those things … Atticus, he [is] real nice…’ [….] ‘Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.'” (Lee 281). In The Gray Ghost, one of the characters is wrongly accused of committing a crime and is pursued. At the end of the story, he is finally caught and his innocence is revealed. After hearing this, Atticus acknowledges the truth of that statement. This quote is a reference to Boo Radley. In the beginning of the novel, Boo Radley is a recluse that never sets foot outside of his house. Because of the people of Maycomb making accusations about Boo Radley, he remains an evil and threatening image in the minds of the children, Jem, Scout, and Dill. As the novel progresses, the children see him as a source of love and goodness; however, there is still an air of creepiness to Boo. In the end, Scout develops a better understanding of Boo and realizes he is one of the novel’s “mockingbirds,” a person injured by the evil of humankind.

Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell realize they are more alike then they appear to be. Mayella is the lonely, unhappy daughter of Bob Ewell. She endures abuse from her father daily. Tom Robinson understands what she is feeling. No one wants anything to do with him because of the color of his skin. Mayella asks Tom for his help and he obliges since he feels sorry for her and no one else wants to help her. Instead of receiving his payment, Mayella makes advances in trying to kiss Tom, but he refuses. Mr. Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father, sees this and begins to beat his daughter. Mayella claims Tom beats and rapes her. Because of this accusation, a trial is set for Tom. At the trial Mr. Gilmer, one of the members of the jury says, “‘You’re a mighty good fellow, it seems-[to do] all this for not one penny?’ ‘Yes suh. I [feel] right sorry for her, she seem[s] to try more’n the rest of ’em-‘ ‘You [feel] sorry for her, you [feel] sorry for her?'” (Lee 197). It seems that Mr. Gilmer thinks it is wrong that Tom Robinson feels sorry for Mayella Ewell.

Mr. Gilmer thinks this because Tom is a poor, black field worker and during this time, someone of Tom’s race should not feel sorry for someone of the white race because a white person and a black person are not in the same social circles and do not have the same mental capability. Another thing that occurs at the trial that may help Tom’s case is Jude Taylor, the judge presiding over the trial, notices something that is a clue for the case. “‘What’s so intrestin?’ he asked [Mr. Ewell]. ‘You’re left handed Mr. Ewell,’ [says] Judge Taylor'” (Lee 177). There are bruises on the right side of Mayella’s face. Someone hit her with his or her left hand. It cannot be Tom Robinson since his hand is disabled. . Atticus Finch, Tom’s attorney, believes Mr. Ewell beat Mayella. This shows Judge Taylor’s intelligence and shows the first major flaw in Bob Ewell’s case. This also proves there is no truth in Bob Ewell’s words and Tom Robinson is another example of the novel’s “mockingbirds.”

After spending time with each other, Mrs. Dubose and Jem begin to understand one another. Mrs. Dubose is one of Jem and Scout’s neighbors. She is a sickly, bitter, old woman who yells nasty things to the Finch children. One afternoon, as Jem and Scout pass by, Mrs. Dubose says, “‘Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!'” (Lee 102). The children are angry because she is saying things to them about their father. Jem and Scout are protective of their father and do not want people saying hurtful things about him when he is trying to do the right thing. Jem decides to ruin her flowerbeds to get revenge on her. As punishment for destroying her flowers, Jem reads to Mrs. Dubose for two hours every afternoon for a month. Shortly after he finishes his reading sentence, Mrs. Dubose passes away. Atticus explains that she is a morphine addict, “‘I [want] you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea 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.'” (Lee 112). Atticus explains the true meaning of heroism. Although Jem does not realize this, but he helps Mrs. Dubose overcome her morphine addiction by reading to her. By sharing this with his children, Atticus feels his children are mature enough to understand this and he shows them the true meaning of courage.

Scout is finally able to see life from Boo Radley’s perspective from the Radley porch. Tom Robinson feels sorry for Mayella Ewell when he realizes that she is lonely because no one wants to spend anytime with her. Finally, Jem understands why Mrs. Dubose is the way she is and realizes she is a courageous woman. All of them are able to understand one another because they “climb into each other’s skin and walk around in it.” This can lead to changes in people’s behavior, thoughts, and attitude towards life.

Works Cited Page

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Grand Central paperback ed. New York: Grand Central, 1982.

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