“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his points of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” says Atticus. Choose two people Jem and Scout learn to understand in the course of the novel and say through what experiences the children “climb into their skin”.
In the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Jem and Scout learn to perceive situations from other peoples points of view. They develop this skill due to several events in the course of the novel. In this essay I will demonstrate how they make the transformation from their original innocent and limited understanding to a greater degree of comprehension.
The first character I will use to demonstrate this development is Boo Radley. When we first hear of Boo he is described as a monstrous entity that was a source of terror to Jem and Scout. However all they based their fear on was a single event in his early teens and gossip from Miss Stephanie. They fear him so much because they know so little about him. In their attempt to comprehend his view of the world more, which must have seemed strange to children who loved the outdoor life, they enacted little dramas of their own invention about what they thought the Radleys were like.
They slowly come to the realisation that in reality Boo Radley is different from the gossip they have heard. This starts when they find the gifts in the tree, they first assume that someone hides their things there but conclude that someone left it there for them when no one else shows interest in taking any of it. Jem realises that it is Boo who puts the gifts there when they try to think of the possible artists who could have carved the two soap dolls.
There are several things that Boo does during the novel that disprove the gossip about him, such as when he puts he mends Jem’s trousers after he snuck into the Radley back garden, also during the fire in Miss Maudie’s house he gave Scout the blanket to keep her warm. He did that without expecting any kind of reward, not even a ‘thank you’. At the very end of the novel he saved the children from Bob Ewell and then stood in a corner without saying anything. Scout finally gained an insight into what the character of Boo actually was when she escorted him back to his house, and stood on the porch, that was like an introduction into seeing the world through his eyes.
The second character I will use to show their development is Mrs Dubose. Mrs Dubose lived alone, except for a black girl. She was very old and wheelchair bound. She also suffered from a terminal illness and was addicted to morphine, which she used as a painkiller. She was determined to break her addiction to morphine before she died, but that would have meant having to suffer from extreme pain and withdrawal symptoms. At first Jem and Scout are not aware of her conditions and are not able to tolerate her attitude towards them and their father.
Although Atticus tries to diffuse the Jem’s fury, once he got angry enough to ‘forget’ the advice Atticus gave him about being a gentleman and cut Mrs Dubose’s camellias. This resulted in Jem having to read to her everyday for a month as part of his punishment. When scout went with him she noticed that Mrs Dubose looked almost friendly, leading her to feel sorry for the old lady.
During the reading sessions they stayed there for a few minutes extra each time, still not knowing that she was trying to break her addiction, they saw that she would have a fit and not listen to Jem reading most of the time. They came to see that she would occupy herself by picking ion them when the book got too boring for her.
When she died and Atticus came back from her house with the box with the camellia inside, Jem finally knew why she acted the way she did. He also understood that she had a right to her own views. He had an example of what real courage is
‘It’s when you know that you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what’
Act I scene 11, p118
This novel is not about the adventures-or misadventures-of two children, it’s the story of how they develop to a stage where they realise that there are ‘mockingbirds’ that no one appreciates.