Maturity In To Kill A Mockingbird
In the award winning novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird the author, Harper Lee illustrates the development of Jem and Scout moral education through the many learning experiences they undergo. Both Jem and Scout change from two innocent children to two mature and understanding children. People are not what they appear, true courage, and how society works are among the topics that Lee conveys through the events of the novel. Through various characters, Scout becomes aware that people are not what they seem to be. Jem’s experiences with courage are prevalent through the novel. His understanding of courage develops to a more mature definition of courage. Lastly, the decisive court case shapes Jem’s and Scout’s understanding of how society functions. Through numerous events and several encounters, Jem and Scout learn about moral education and society.
The first part of moral education pertains to courage and moral integrity. Jem’s view of courage is defined by childish acts. For example, Atticus makes the Radley house off limits to Jem and Scout, but one night, Jem ignores his father’s rule and touches the front door of the Radley place and then hurries home. While running, Jem’s pants get caught in the fence so he must go back to get them. However, as Jem returns to the fence, he demonstrates courage and retains moral integrity in that he goes back to such a dangerous place to avoid disappointing his father.
As the novel progresses further, Jem observes a stray dog down the street. As the events of the stray dog unwind, Atticus must shoot the dog from a far distance. Jem sees courage as a man with a gun in his hand. One day, as the kids are playing outside, Jem cuts off Mrs. Dubose’s flowers. In the hopes of understanding true courage, Atticus makes Jem go to her house and read to her. During one night, after Mrs. Dubose’s death, Atticus explained,
“I wanted you to see something about her-I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that 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. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” (112)
Jem, who finally understands true courage, observed it by none other than Atticus. Just by defending Tom in a courtroom where he knows he is going to lose, Atticus demonstrates overwhelming courage. In these events of the novel, Jem matures, for he no longer thinks childish things are courageous, and at the same time, recognizes real courage.
Another important lesson in moral education regards looking at things from a different perspective. Scout receives her moral education through the experiences with Boo Radley and Mr. Dolphus Raymond, but Atticus nonetheless talks with Scout. Boo Radley often comes to mind when thinking about, looking at things from different angles. The town of Maycomb has engraved a fingerprint on Boo portraying him as a freak and a lunatic. However, the town fails to see Boo from another angle.
Another character that comes into play is Ms. Caroline Fisher, Scout’s first grade teacher. Scout and Ms. Fisher get along poorly on the first day because Ms. Fisher has little experience teaching. Frustrated, Scout judges Ms. Caroline and one evening, while talking on the porch, Atticus advises,
“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.”
As the quote explains, one must look at things from all angles, just like observing the positives and negatives of making an important decision. Scout remembers Atticus’s advice when she has difficulty understanding her teachers.
Another ideal example showing Scout’s maturing is that of Mr. Dolphus Raymond outside the courtroom. In the middle of the court case, the children come outside of the courtroom to the back of the balcony, and Mr. Dolphus Raymond is there in a coat, supposedly drinking liquor from a brown bag, when in reality, he is drinking Coca-Cola. As expected, Scout warns Dill not to have too much as he is about to sip the beverage. Once more, Scout made an assumption because of Mr. Raymond’s dress and brown bag. Mr. Raymond serves as another tool for Scout to learn to not make assumptions without trying to understand his or her point of view.
In the closure of the novel, Atticus’s advice is effectively implemented with the long awaited appearance of Boo Radley. Scout sees Boo’s real side, a side without any fingerprints, and thinks for a moment about what it would the world would be like from Boo’s standpoint. Through these events, Scout matures and grows to be a person who can look at things from perspectives.
Finally, Jem and Scout learn a great deal about the society they thrive in. The two innocent children learn what the real world is like after only one court case. As the defense attorney and the plaintiff engage in a verbal altercation, Jem and Scout keenly observe how Atticus’ argument is nullified because he defends Tom Robinson. As the dispute continues, Tom Robinson’s angle of the story is also marked falsely because of the unimportant and stereotypical fact that he is black. Attentively waiting for the jury file out of the back room, Jem and Scout soon hear the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson. In these several hours of the court case, both Jem and Scout have been educated about a society in which black people are at the bottom, and furthermore stripped of fairness.
In conclusion, Scout learns a tremendous lesson of looking at situations and people from all angles; Jem learns what true courage is; and collectively, they learn about society that will stick with them for much of their life. Scout learns about looking at people from a different angle through Boo Radley and Mr. Dolphus Raymond. Likewise, Jem learns about true courage through Mrs. Dubose and Atticus. And, they learn about society through the courtroom and the case. The development of the moral education of Scout and Jem is clearly revealed throughout the novel along with their of understanding of how society functions.