Harper Lee’s bestselling novel To Kill a Mockingbird incorporates many life lessons which help the children in the novel develop as mature beings and begin living in adulthood. Scout Finch learns various lessons as her adventures take place. Throughout the novel the character Scout grows from innocence to adulthood by learning the importance of quality, the need to be empathetic in situations, and she also learns what real courage is.
The first lesson Scout learns is the importance of equality. Near the beginning of the story Scout has an encounter with Walter Cunningham on her first day of school. She invites him over for lunch and Walter drowns his food in syrup. This action of Walter’s was very unusual to Scout, so she ostracizes him for doing so. Calpurnia says to Scout “Yo’ folks might be better’n the Cunningham’s but it don’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin’ ‘em. (Lee 33) Scout learns here that people are different in all sorts of ways but you don’t contradict them for being different. The second way Scout learns the importance of equality is at Tom Robinson’s trial. Tom is accused of raping Mayella Ewell and Tom was proved innocent by Atticus Finch; the father of Scout and Jem. Atticus makes a speech that is all about treating everyone equally and during that speech he even states “It’s as simple as black and white.” (Lee 203) Although everyone in the courthouse knows Tom is innocent he is still persecuted because he is black. Scout witnesses the trial and she notices that racism is a huge issue in Maycomb’s society and white and black people are all equal. The last way Scout learns the importance of equality is that she learns from her older brother Jem. As children, people always make older siblings their role models. Scout looks up to Jem as any other child would to their older siblings. In the novel Jem says “If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? (Lee 227) Scout learns from Jem and they both realize that people hate each other for almost no reason at all. People in the town are consistently judging and making conclusions about others. They both think people should all get along because everyone is the same.
Scout also learns the need to be empathetic in certain situations. Scout is introduced to the situation of Tom Robinson who is taken to court because of an accused assault of rape. Tom is later persecuted for a crime he did not do. Scout sees how Tom Robinson is really just a caring man and that he should not be judged because of rumors, politics or race. “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” (Lee 279) Scout realizes that Tom was only helping Mayella Ewell when she needed it, and Bob Ewell poses the scenario to make Tom look guilty. Tom was still persecuted, though the whole town of Maycomb knew that he was innocent of crime. Scout’s knowledge of empathy also comes from Mayella Ewell. Scout sees how Mayella does not live a life like her own. Mayella is very poor, and she has to do all the work in the house. She is abused harshly by her father, and she has seven siblings to take care of. She was so poor she says “Took me a slap year to seb’m nickels, but I done it.” (Lee 258) Scout sees things from Mayella’s point of view and eventually starts to feel sorry for her. The last way Scout learns to be empathetic is because she understands Boo Radley. Scout understands Boo’s compassion for her and Jem. She understands why Boo stays inside the house. She and Jem think it could be because nobody really gets along with each other, so he stays inside the house to avoid the drama. By the end of the novel Scout understands Boo as a friend as well as a respected person. Scout says “But neighbours give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it, we had given him nothing