“To Kill a Mockingbird” Critical Lens

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Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. ” Gandhi is trying to express that the true brawn a person has is not the physical ability, but the mental stability and strength is contains. In “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, the main characters, Scout and Jem, demonstrate their own version of strength through being able to overcome the bad influence of their hometown, Maycomb. Harper Lee shows this through characterization of Jem and imagery pertaining to Scout. Jem gains his own strength by realizing the flaws of the judgement of the people of his town.

After the trial of Tom Robinson, Jem speaks to Scout about his realization relevant to the outcome of the trial (the fact that Tom Robinson was found guilty of a crime that the evidence indicated that he wasn’t). Jem speaks about the point of view of the jury involved with the trial and comes up with a conclusion about Boo Radley, a man who mysteriously never comes out of his home. Jem stated, “Scout, I’m beginning to understand something…why Boo stayed shut up in his house all the time…it’s because he wants to stay inside” (Lee, 259).

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The fact that Jem lives in a community of predominantly judgmental people would make one assume that he would pick up on that mentality and mimic it, since it is the only thing he truly knows/has grown up around. But Jem is different. Prior to this moment, Jem was extremely sheltered from any possible negative/contradictory views about the town. As he is maturing into an adult, Jem is still trying to dissect the world around him, trying to view his locale through a different lens.

He knows that the evidence in the trial showed that Tom was innocent, but was smart enough to recognize the opposite view the jury had. He is able to point out the questionable actions/injustices in the judgement of the community and bring to light what they truly are. This moment characterizes Jem as someone who is learning to be extremely thorough with his opinions. He is actually strong enough to stand his ground and has the ability to maintain his mental attitude , despite the social pressures of the town around him that would emphasize his mentality as incorrect.

Jem’s ability to specify flaws in his town without merging their ideals with his demonstrates strength through maintaining his mindset. Scout show her strength through her overcoming her fears of something unknown, Boo Radley. After the dilemma of Jem and Scout being attacked by someone in the middle of the night and Mr. Bob Ewell being killed, Scout meets the one person she has been curious about the whole book: Boo Radley, the town mystery, who has just saved their lives. After his visit to Jem, Scout decides to walk Boo Radley back to his house because he is terrified of going alone.

Harper Lee says, in the voice of Scout, “He had to stoop a little to accommodate me…she would see Arthur Radley escorting me down the sidewalk, as any gentleman would” (Lee, 319-320). In the town of Maycomb, the tale of Boo Radley was a popular topic, detailing a crazy man who does terrible things and is not in the correct mindset for anything. Scout does start to gain curiosity pertaining to Boo and his household through being aware of the different stereotypes and “tall tales” the town has expressed about him.

Scout is still very cautious as to what to believe. The setting of the Radley house was so prominent in this scene, since it represented an unknown for Scout. She has been known to be intimidated and heedful when approaching his home in several circumstances. Regardless of what she has heard or felt about the Radley place, Scout made a very mature decision. She saw the fragile and cautious exterior of Boo (his apprehension of anything outside of his house) and decided to put her fear aside.

She had the strength to accommodate Boo by bringing him through a situation that was unknown to him (and even had the courtesy say that he was escorting her, when he actually wasn’t) during a time where she might’ve felt more comfortable not going. She was able to gather enough courage together to face her fear of the Radley house. She became mature and strong enough to see that when there is something more important then what is surrounding you, you must put your focus on that one thing.

In “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Scout and Jem show strength by not succumbing to their cynical surroundings. They stray away from the pathway of racist mentality the rest of Maycomb has adopted in order to do what they believe is right due to their morals and knowledge. When people are in a situation where their society has a negative impact on them, the way they claw themselves out is by figuring out a way is to not surrender to their mentality, but to keep strong with their ways of thinking.

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“To Kill a Mockingbird” Critical Lens. (2016, Dec 06). Retrieved from


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