Empathy and Virtue in Harper Lee's to Kill a Mockingbird

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Taylor J. Myrick Ms. Stone AP English 17 April 2012 Empathy and Virtue in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird has long been respected as a novel representing ethics, morals, and empathy. This is most genuinely portrayed in Scout’s innocence, and Atticus’s moral character. Each tale presented is “a vehicle for the moral fable that runs through Mockingbird” (Dare 84). This is an analysis of morals and empathy in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, specifically through the voices of Atticus and Scout Finch. Atticus Finch is regarded throughout the novel as being a man of good moral character, and was always willing to put himself in someone else’s shoes (Dare 82). This creates a sort of hero that can be appreciated for far more than common “heroes” can be. “I had many heroes when growing up … only one remains very much alive for me … Atticus made me believe in lawyer-heroes.” (Dare 91). Atticus’s empathy is portrayed most clearly in his teachings of scout. In Being Atticus Finch: The Professional Role of Empathy in To Kill a Mockingbird, the Harvard Law review describes this scene: In a characteristic episode, Atticus Finch, the central character and moral conscience of the novel, imparts to his daughter, Scout, a “simple trick” for getting along with others: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” – that is, “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.(Harvard Law Review 1686). That’s not a saying that is unfamiliar for the majority of people, but Atticus uses it to shape Scout’s character. Scout is just a child and as such children do not have any way knowing right from wrong outside of what others instill in them. Atticus very clearly is not the only influence on Scout as a person and she does learn many things on her own, but “much of the credit for Scout’s moral development is
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