How Does Atticus Show Empathy In To Kill A Mockingbird

Powerful Essays
A Journey to the Center of Empathy Whether you step into another’s perspective by walking a mile in their fuzzy socks, six-inch heels, Converse, or slippers equipped with a bathrobe, empathy is a human endeavor that is recognizable in any form, especially in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Set in the 1930s when racial tension was at its highest, this novel is narrated through a young girl named Scout and her experiences of childhood with her older brother Jem and her wise father Atticus, a lawyer defending an innocent black man (Tom Robinson) from the prejudice in the sleepy little town of Maycomb. As she navigates through silly childhood rumors and tragic losses, readers can observe the positive effects empathy has on Scout…show more content…
Atticus is a prime example of this, bringing empathy to a deeper level. For instance, Atticus musters up the moral courage to defend the innocent Tom Robinson in the case against Mayella Ewell, an action that goes against much of Maycomb’s beliefs. However, the fuel to this motivation initially comes from placing himself in Tom’s shoes in order to see the unjust actions towards him, thus taking the initiative to do something about this prejudice. Atticus goes to the jail cell and possibly endangers himself to prevent the endangerment of Tom. Although he knows he may be risking his life by guarding the front of the jail, he shows moral courage for facing his fears and standing up for what he believes is ethical. “Atticus got up from his chair, but he was moving slowly, like an old man. He put the newspaper down very carefully, adjusting its creases with lingering fingers. They were trembling a little” (203). From this quote, the word “trembling” emphasizes the utter fear of facing the mob alone. This was a brave act on multiple levels because along with physically facing his fears and putting himself in danger, he takes one step further to show his moral courage by standing up for his beliefs. Atticus’s fear not only suggests worry about his own life but doubt that he may not be enough to stop the mob from getting to Tom. Empathy shows its purest form through…show more content…
Gilmer seemed ready to rise to the ceiling” (264). “You felt sorry for her?” This condescending remark Mr. Gilmer makes shows his fury and his supposed superiority that the majority of Maycomb felt towards black people. Just based entirely off of the color of Tom’s skin, they seem unable to accept or view the story from his angle. Emphasis on the word “you” is used in a derogatory manner that screams prejudice, and Mr. Gilmer seems incapable of seeing how a black man like Tom could possibly feel sorry for “her”, a white girl like Mayella. Because the social ladder is built based off of race, Tom immediately gets cast to the bottom without a second thought. “Sorry” is italicized to illustrate the disbelief, which contributes to the fact that the public does not accept Tom’s honest sympathy for Mayella, nor do they even attempt to understand him. Because of this narrow-minded thinking, Tom’s biased persecution eventually escalates to his death. Another example of the little empathy the town possesses is presented in Scout’s third-grade classroom, where lessons are learned from current events. Given that To Kill a Mockingbird is set around the 1930s, of course, one day the topic of Hitler is brought up. Scout’s teacher, Miss Gates, shows her contempt towards him, because of his prosecution of the Jews. Scout realizes the hypocrisy of the situation, and exclaims, “‘Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around
Get Access