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Empathy in to Kill a Mockingbird

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Empathy in to Kill a Mockingbird

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Throughout the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the characteristic of empathy is ever present. This unique quality is developed through Jem and Scout in their dealings with the characters of Walter Cunningham and Mrs. Dubose.

One characteristic shown of Jem and Scout is their ability to empathize or “….climb into their skin and walk around in it.” (pg 31). During the novel Jem develops a high level of emotional intelligence that allows him to understand the situation of others, as well as what they may be thinking or possible the way they will act. The reader first discovers this characteristic about Jem when he stops Scout from bashing up Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard and invites him over for dinner. “I [Scout] stomped at him [Walter] to chase him away, but Jem put out his hand and stopped me.” (pg 24). Jem stops Scout bashing Walter because he knows the ordeals Walter and his family face every day. To make up for Scout, Jem invites Walter over for dinner because Jem knows Walter is lucky to get a proper meal a day. Scout develops her empathy from this example when Calpurnia takes her into the kitchen and explains the Cunningham’s situation. “Yo’ folks might be better’n the Cunningham’s but it don’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin’ ‘em….” (Page 26). Through the course of events involving Walter Cunningham, both Jem and Scout learn to climb into the skin of Walter and enhance their ability to empathize.

Another example of where Jem and Scout show their attribute of empathy is with the character of Mrs. Dubose. Mrs. Dubose is an old lady who is addicted to morphine with a habit of make her thoughts of Atticus public; in front of Jem and Scout. In a burst of rage Jem gets angry and smashes her flowers; which he then has to repay, by reading to her; and Scout decides to tag along for moral support. About 1 month after they complete their reading duties, Mrs. Dubose dies and the children feels empathy and some sympathy, for her...

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