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In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, many lessons are taught throughout the story. One of these lessons is taught by Atticus, and is learned by Jem and Scout, and other characters in different ways. This lesson is empathy, which is being able to really feel what someone else is feeling. Empathy is a lesson demonstrated and experienced by some characters in To Kill a Mockingbird.
One example of empathy being used in the story is during the time Scout was going to school. Walter Cunningham forgot his lunch one day, and Miss Caroline gave him a quarter to go downtown and eat. Walter refused, but Scout stood up for him because Miss Caroline couldn’t understand who Walter really was. “The Cunninghams never took anything they can’t pay back” (26). “-You’re shamin’ him, Miss Caroline” (28). This shows that Scout really understands who Walter is, and why he can’t accept the money.
Another example of empathy is demonstrated by Jem. When Scout is about to kill a roly-poly (an insect), Jema advises scout not to do that. He does this because “They don’t bother you” (Page #). So Jem knows that they are no harm and killing them would be wrong. This shows that his understanding of empathy has deepened.
Another example is demonstrated by Dill. After Dill is taken in by the Finch family after running away, Scout and Dill go to bed. They talk about how and why Dill ran away. Scout tries to ask why Boo never ran away, considering what happened between him and his family, to which Dill responded “Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off too…” (Page 192). From this response we can tell that Dill was able to understand Boo and what is sort of going on with him. He understands that maybe Boo just can’t run off to anywhere, or he potentially doesn’t want to.

To Kill a Mockingbird contains a lot of things that people can learn from. One of these things being empathy, and how to empathise with other people and truly understand how they are feeling. This trait is demonstrated through characters in the book, like Scout, and how she understood how Walter felt, and why he couldn’t accept money from Miss Caroline. Another example was how Jem was able to empathise with the roly-poly Scout was about to kill. Jem said to scout that “They don’t bother you” (Page #), implying that killing the roly-poly would be unfair to it, and would be wrong in Jem’s eyes. One final example was how Dill understood Boo’s situation and how he felt when Scout asked why Boo never ran away from home, replying with “Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off too” (Page #). Empathy takes effort and requires you to really care about the person you are trying to empathise with. Just feeling bad for them is not enough. Empathy is an important skill that can help make another person feel better about the situation that they are in.

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Last updated: October 4, 2019

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