“To Kill a Mockingbird” (empathy)

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In short, the main idea of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is the conflict between good and evil, such as the racial oppression on the African Americans’ impact on Jem and Scout. The novel also draws parallels to people who are oppressed, regardless of their race, such as Arthur “Boo” Radley and teaches the importance of the Golden Rule. The overarching problem in To Kill a Mockingbird, or TKAMB for short was the case of Tom Robinson, an African American accused by the Ewells, a white family of raping the eldest daughter, Mayella Ewell. Atticus had to defend Tom as a lawyer because he was assigned to him, but anyone can notice that the Ewells were going to win, which leaves the readers asking why Atticus took this case so seriously. It makes sense for Atticus to have taken a stand to have defended Tom Robinson because he would teach his children the value of the Golden Rule and he would strengthen his children’s trust in him.

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To understand why Atticus wants Jem and Scout to know the Golden Rule, you must first understand what the Golden Rule is. At its basic, the Golden Rule is to treat others how you would want to be treated. It tells us that every person has their own problems, so we should help them rather than hurt them. So, why does Atticus want his children to know this? Because in their county, racism is encouraged and Atticus is trying to teach Jem and Scout the benefits of respecting and, if needed, helping others, regardless of their skin tone. He even states that if he doesn’t defend him how he wouldn’t be able to face his children. It would be like looking at a living embodiment of a mirror. A fogged mirror.

Atticus’ second reason for defending Tom would be to gain trust in his children. Throughout the book, it is quickly apparent that Jem and Scout don’t respect him as they do other adults. They call him by his first name and sometimes get annoyed by him, even to think to themselves “I wish my father was a demon from hell”(105) but they do learn from him. When Scout is asked how she can read, she responds that “(Atticus) hasn’t taught me anything”(19), but she has testified that she sits in Atticus’ lap whenever he reads. Now you might be asking, “what does that have to do with trust?” Well Atticus is teaching them without them knowing. It is like developing a good habit such as sports. You do what you love without realizing that you are helping your body and maintaining it healthy. Atticus is using this same approach to develop a conscience at an early age. He is trying to gain their trust so they won’t put it in the wrong people. He has even said it himself. “…I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough….”(101)

Some people may say that Atticus standing up for Tom would cause harm to him and his family, physically and mentally. This is because we have already seen that the kids are being viewed as the children of a “nigger lover.” However, they are misinformed because that is exactly why Atticus needs to do this. Atticus needs to prove to his children that the popular opinion isn’t always the moral one. The case wouldn’t harm him because who cares about what others think? Atticus won’t lose his job for helping someone he was assigned to and he won’t damage relationships because he is a very respectable and revered man, known for his lawyership and his marksmanship. It makes sense why this would bring harm to his family, but the Finch’s are well known. Scout is a fighter, amongst other things and Jem is picking up his father’s job. Not to mention that Atticus doesn’t care what others think and his children listen to him. With this, he can teach his children to have the courage to stand up for those who need it.

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"To Kill A Mockingbird" (empathy). (2021, Jul 28). Retrieved October 6, 2022 , from
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