To Kill a Mockingbird is a famous novel written by Harper Lee and she invites the reader to follow the life of a girl living in the white racist society of Maycomb, Alabama during the 1930´s. The novel is about a young girl, Scout Finch, who lives with her widowed lawyer father Atticus and older brother Jem. In the beginning of the book the author allows the reader to follow Scout and Jem mostly during the summers when they act out stories about their strange neighbor Boo Radley, who never sets a foot outside of his house. Soon the story takes a turn, from the prankish acts of children to a trial about an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. During this period prejudices against colored people were very common and when Atticus agrees to defend the black man, named Tom Robinson, soon both he and his children have the whole white society of Maycomb against them. Scout tries to understand why Atticus chooses to stand by Tom Robinson when it seems as if everyone else think it is idiocy. The novel gives the reader an insight that even though mankind has always been afraid of the unknown you cannot condemn a person until you consider things from his point of view, see the world through his unique perspective and are able to empathize with his values.
Throughout the novel Harper Lee allows the reader to follow Jem and Scout´s childhood suspicions as they try to figure out who the terrifying Arthur “Boo” Radley is and meanwhile understanding why Atticus chooses to defend Tom Robinson in court. Jem, Scout and their summer-friend Dill spend some of their summers spying on the mysterious “Boo” Radley. They even act out silly games where they pretend to be Mr. Radley. One day Jem and Scout finds presents hidden in a knothole in a tree in Mr. Radleys garden and when the house of their neighbor burns down someone slips a blanket on Scouts shoulders without her noticing. After the fire Atticus chooses to defend Tom Robinson in court and soon the whole townsfolk of Maycomb cannot hide their anger towards Atticus. Tom Robinson is prosecuted for murder and based on the color of his skin everybody believes he is guilty and evil. Despite the prejudices shared by all of the folks in Maycomb Atticus tries to see through it and challenges himself to overcome the fear and to face the unknown. When Scout asks Atticus why he chooses to defend Tom he tells her he does it to uphold his self-respect. The book gives the reader the insight that both “Boo” Radley and Tom Robinson symbolize good, innocent people that suffers from prejudices and when Atticus chooses to defend Tom because it is the right thing to do he teaches the children that just because everyone else fears overcoming differences and facing the unknown they should not.
When Atticus finds out about Scout and Jem´s foolish games about Mr Radley he urges them to try to see life from other people´s perspective before making judgments. Jem and Scout cannot understand why a person would want to live a life without ever facing daylight. Atticus tells them, on page 33; “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.” With this being said Atticus tries to make them realize that every human being has a reason why one behave a certain way and that one should not judge another person before one completely understand their perspective on life. Despite several facts that Atticus brings up during the trial that proves Tom´s innocence he is found guilty by the whole jury, just because that is how it has always been. Scout and Jem struggle to consider things from other people´s point of view and somehow gain a new perspective on things but Jem finds it hard to understand how the whole society of Maycomb can be so blinded only by the color of someone´s skin.
It is not until Boo Radley saves the children from being killed and when the innocence of Tom is obvious that the reader fully understands how good people can be damaged by those who does not want to see the truth. “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” This quote can be found on page 99 when Atticus tells his children what a mockingbird is and it teaches them that a mockingbird does not harm anyone. Furthermore, on page 100, they are being taught; “They do not do one thing but make music for us to enjoy … but sing their hearts out for us.” “That´s why it´s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.” Tom is a very kind and caring black man who would never harm another human being. Despite his caring personality and pure heart Tom is betrayed by the entire townsfolk of Maycomb just because he is a black man. At the end of the story Scout realizes that it was Boo who left her and Jem presents, covered her with a blanket during the fire and saved them from being killed. This makes the reader realize that Boo was a goodhearted man who had been damaged by his abusive father. Tom and Boo are in fact two of the Mockingbirds in the novel, good and innocent people who are destroyed by evil.With this insight Scout can finally imagine who the real Boo Radley is and she has learned that if one tries to see life from other people´s perspective and treats them with sympathy you can finally imagine what life is like for others.
The capacity to empathize and gain a new perspective from another person´s point of view is what separates the good and the evil people. In the beginning of the book Scout was an ignorant child who hadn’t yet seen the evil side of human beings. Throughout the book the reader can see Scout develop her values and change her way of thinking which makes it easier for the readers to understand how different things can be interpret from person to person. In the last episode of the book Scout is telling her father about a character in a book who is pursued for committing a crime but whose innocence is soon revealed. She tells Atticus, on page 309; “When they finally saw him, why he hadn’t doneany of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . .” Atticus then answers; “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.” From being an ignorant child Scout now has the ability to see the world from different perspectives. The book takes place in a society imprinted with prejudices and hatred of the unknown. By giving the reader an insight in how Atticus, Boo and eventually Scout think compared with the society that they live in the reader can fully understand the importance of empathy. Harper Lee reminds her readers that it is possible to believe the best of humanity if one approaches each human being with sympathy and an open mind. This outstanding novel teaches its readers that if everyone treated each other equally the capacity for evil would be destroyed.