Lit, Period 7
7, December, 2013
The Power of Empathy
In the grand scheme of things, each of us is working hard to see ourselves prosper. When we are fighting for survival, why should any of us take the time to feel for our fellow human beings? In her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee implies that having the ability to feel for others or to show empathy not only benefits others, but can lead to personal gains as well. This is best demonstrated through the characters of Atticus, Jem, and Scout Finch. An obvious example of this claim is through the character of Atticus Finch. Because of Atticus’ ability to empathize with everyone, he is well respected by the town, even when he is doing some controversial things such as defending Tom Robinson. Atticus’ use of empathy is apparent during the trial, where Atticus is blaming Mayella Ewell for falsely accusing Tom Robinson of rape. Rather than explicitly attacking Mayella, Atticus says, “I have nothing but pity in my heart for the chief witness of state, but my pity does not extend so far as to her putting a man’s life at stake.” (Lee-203). Atticus is still delivering the same basic message, but rather than blatantly accusing Mayella of lying, he is empathizing with her and in a way justifying her actions, however wrong they may have been. By conveying his points in ways that do not make others feel like they are being personally attacked, Atticus is a well-respected member of society. We learn of the extent of this respect when Scout complains: “Despite Atticus’ shortcomings as a parent, people were content to reelect him to the state legislature without opposition. I came to the conclusion that people were just peculiar.” (Lee- 243). Even after he lost the controversial Tom Robinson case, the town still elected Atticus to serve on the state legislature since he was so respected because of his ability to empathize with each and every member of Maycomb. We also see this empathy in Jem, who...
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