To Kill A Mockingbird Morals

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“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself” (Epictetus). Circumstances, though often beyond our control, don’t shape a person’s identity or personality. This concept is rather common, manifesting in both aspects of life and in literature. For, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird it becomes apparent that circumstances don’t define a character’s morals or ethics, as expressed through the development of Jem’s morals, the community’s reaction to Tom Robinson’s death, and Atticus’s teachings on forgiveness and compassion. Lee’s usage of Jem’s coming of age, which includes the ever important development of Jem’s ethics and morals, perfectly encapsulates the theme. The first time readers experience this is Scout’s first…show more content…
One response, from the newspaper writer/editor, Mr. Underwood, highlights what some of the few progressive residents stand for, all with some underlying symbolism. “He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children” (Lee 323). In this quote readers see how Lee uses a very minor character, who is white, to represent the feelings of some of Maycomb’s residents. Additionally, this is relevant to the theme because few people would be surprised if Tom Robinson’s death wasn’t even mentioned, and yet Mr. Underwood subjects his readers to a most poetic interpretation of Tom Robinson’s death, which he believes shouldn’t have happened. Additionally, one can assume that Mr. Underwood likens Tom’s death to the death of a mockingbird (a songbird) as it is stated earlier in the book, by Ms. Maudie, that “ …’they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’” (Lee 119); this statement also seems to be a common idea in Maycomb county. Another surprising revelation was Aunt Alexandra’s response to Tom Robinson’s death. As a woman who constantly preaches that you are only as good as your family, her reaction is rather astonishing. “ ‘Tom’s dead.’ Aunt Alexandra put her hands to her mouth…I thought Aunt Alexandra was crying” (Lee 315-316). Aunt Alexandra had always organized the families of Maycomb into different social classes, with African Americans most likely at the bottom. So, it would come as a shock that she had one of the most emotional reactions to the news. This is a moment where a whole new layer of depth is revealed for Aunt Alexandra, and readers see that her harsh and abrasive personality could be a front for her true feelings of the deep inequality certain peoples face in not only Maycomb, but
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