Most novels have one or more important lessons hidden within the story. In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird there are many meaningful lessons that the main characters, Scout and Jem, learn throughout the novel, but the main lesson is when they learn to “walk in someone else’s skin”.
Atticus, the kids’ father, teaches them that genuine understanding and acceptance can only be achieved when a person is truly willing to see things from another’s perspective. Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is an old lady that lives two houses away from the Finches’ house.
At the beginning of the novel, it is said that most people’s opinion of her is that she is the “meanest old woman who ever lived” and Scout describes her as “plain hell” (Lee 7). Mrs. Dubose will yell insults at Scout and Jem from her porch every time they walk by her house. When Scout tries to be polite and say hello, Mrs. Dubose replies with, “Don’t you say hey to me, you ugly girl! You say good afternoon, Mrs. Dubose!”(Lee 133). She always has something harsh to say to Jem and Scout, to the point where they begin to fear and despise her, without bothering to try and understand her.
Jem eventually gets fed up with the insults about his father defending Tom Robinson, and breaks the stems of all the flowers in Mrs. Dubose’s garden. Atticus makes Jem go apologize to Mrs. Dubose and as a consequence she makes him read to her everyday after school for one month. When he goes to read to her, Scout decides to go with him. Scout sees Mrs. Dubose and says, “I felt sorry for her.
She was lying under a pile of quilts and looked almost friendly”(Lee 141). This shows that Scout emphasizes a bit with Mrs. Dubose when she that Mrs.Dubose is ill, but she does not understand completely how Mrs. Dubose must feel until after her death. She was a morphine addict and she was determined to fight it and die free, which she manages to do by getting Jem and Scout to read to her as a distraction for longer and longer periods of time.
Atticus wants them to see that she was more than a mean old lady, he wants them to see “what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand” (Lee 149). Atticus wants them to understand that she was actually a great lady and went through a lot. Scout and Jem begin to understand that she was more than a bitter old lady when they step in her shoes and realize the pain she must have been through. She was courageous because she new how hard it would be and she did not quit, she did not let any excuse stop her and she managed to kick to addiction before she died.At the beginning of the novel, we see Calpurnia through Scout’s perspective.
She says that Calpurnia ” When Scout and Jem go to Calpurnia’s church, they see how different it is from their own church, and how different people act. They have a chance to see things from Calpurnia’s perspective and experience what her life is like outside of the white community. Arthur Radley is very misunderstood in the novel. When he was in his teens, he became acquainted with the wrong crowd, it was the closest thing to a gang that Maycomb ever had. One night, him and his friends were arrested and the town decided something had to be done. The judge decided that the boys would be sent to the state industrial school, which was quite good, but Arthur’s father thought it was a disgrace.
Instead he convinced the judge to let him take care of Arthur himself. From that moment on, Arthur has been locked up in his house by his father. Since then, people have given him the name Boo and there are many rumors about him, “People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows. When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work” (Lee 10). This shows that no one really bothered to understand Arthur, they do not see him as a person anymore.
At the beginning of the novel, Jem and Scout have not learned how to empathize with others, and therefore also think of him in that way. They describe him to Dill as a monster, something to be afraid of. As Scout grows up over the course of the novel, and as she begins to understand more the people around her, she begins to think of Boo Radley differently.
When third grade starts, she says she ” sometimes felt a twinge of remorse, when passing by the old place, at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment to Arthur Radley”(Lee 324). After everything that has happened, her attitude begins to change. She does not fear Boo Radley anymore, and she realizes that the games she and her brother played must have been terrible for Boo.
She is starting to understand more, and she is putting other people feeling into consideration. However, it is not until she finally meets Boo Radley that she understands completely. After she walks him home, she stands on his porch and thinks “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 standing on the Radley porch was enough”(Lee 374). She finally understands what Atticus meant, and she finally understands Arthur Radley. She put herself in his place and she saw how he sees the world from his porch and she is now able to understand him. This shows how much she as grow throughout the novel and how much she has learned.
A person can only achieve genuine understanding and acceptance if they are truly willing to put themselves in another’s place. This is a very important lesson to learn and is useful in everyday life. People need to realize that everyone has problems, and they should be less judgemental and try to put himself in their place before they make an opinion.