Ethics: the Keys to Morality (to Kill a Mockingbird)

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James Weiss
English 11H-2
March 11, 2009
Ms. Walker

Ethics: The Keys to Humanity's Forbearance

Morality is not a virtue that many can tolerate without a conscience. It was considered the critical awareness of humanity's standards of conduct that are accepted as proper. Yet, for Scout, morality becomes not only a principle, but also a necessity in order for her to survive in the prejudiced society of Maycomb County. It is solely the essence of ethics that causes her to frown upon the injustices brought about by intolerance. Thus, Scout's maturity towards understanding the vitality of morality allows her to become a noble individual in an unjust social order. Scout's innocence is solely a consequence of her age and prevents her from truly understanding the complexities of the South in the 1930's. Her world is insular and small: her home county of Maycomb, Alabama, "an old town […] a tired old town/ […] / There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with. Maycomb had […] nothing to fear but fear itself” (Lee 6). As Maycomb is a genuine Southern community, its values and customs are old-fashioned. Progress has been halted due to the discrimination that is still heavily embedded within its population. Although Scout interprets the weariness of her town quite literally, it is more symbolic of the general tenets and out-dated beliefs of a racist community. Moreover, her age is an obstacle that impairs her ability to comprehend the dire circumstances of the Great Depression and discount the meaning of President Roosevelt's ominous words. Yet, she is not wholly ignorant of the effects of the depression, which leads her to become very curious about the economy at such a young age; " [her] honest and often confused reactions reflect [her] development as [a person] and also helps the reader gauge the moral consequences of the novel's events" (Felty 298). While Scout may not be aware of the rampant bigotry that exists, she is not naïve to how the poor are marginalized and that a stigma is attached to it; there is a latent prejudice that surfaces because of the community's influence. Although she does not intend to be biased, her subconscious betrays her. Furthermore, Lee maintains Scout's innocence by channeling the adult Jean-Louise with the focus of Scout's childhood. Lee depicts the destitution of the 1930's, and its impact upon a child's point of view in order to form the reality that " the crash hurt the country real bad, but didn't hurt [Scout's] county none. We're still just as poor. I watched breadlines elongate and workloads decrease/ […] / must [have] been something terrible" (Lee 223, 224). The crash of the stock market, a rather complex calamity for a six year-old girl to follow, was the consequence of a failing economy. Scout's innocence, however, is tainted by a failing society whose injustice becomes paramount to the economic crisis. In addition, to emphasize the innocence portrayed in Jean-Louise as a child, " [Scout's innocence] denotes a pinnacle of civilized progress. [She is] the most civilized, the most humane, the wisest character" (Johnson 302). Innocence can only become an obstruction for Scout due to her undeveloped conception of a world surrounding her own. Her age compromises her ability to develop as well as her ability to attain her highly-coveted experience of which Maycomb deprives her, and deters her growth, leading towards her naivety. The societal pressures that exist for Scout cause her to question whether her allegiance is to her kind or to mankind, which, as a result, calls her to question the legitimacy of discrimination. Due to her undeveloped sense of equity, Scout seeks refuge in Atticus. Atticus' agreeing to represent Tom Robinson in his trial defines the morals and principles by which Scout should live. His motive causes Scout to feel alienated within her own society, whereby he distances himself in society in order to compel...
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