LEARNING EMPATHY, COMPASSION, AND THE FACT OF INJUSTICE

From this story’s beginning, we walk right into 1930s Southern life, visualizing the characters in this small town through the eyes of one of its children, Scout Finch, who narrates this wonderful tale.

With her older brother Jem and their summer friend Dill, these children explore the small world within two blocks of their home, imagining and fantasizing and sometimes obsessing over a mysterious man named Albert (Boo) Radley. The stories about him reveal a troubled young man contained in his home by his punitive father. But long after the father’s death, Boo stays out of sight.

Meanwhile, the town begins stirring over a controversial happening—Atticus Finch, a lawyer and the father of Jem and Scout has taken on the case of defending a black man against charges that he raped a white woman. Never mind that there is no physical evidence, nor are the “witnesses” even slightly credible. Finch pokes holes in the prosecution’s case, and Jem, Scout, and Dill, watching from the balcony, feel sure of an acquittal.

What these children learn from this case and the subsequent aftermath is that life is often unjust. But their father tries to help them see that understanding another person can only happen when you “walk in his shoes.”

Empathy, integrity, compassion, and yes, life’s injustices—all of these are brought home to these children growing up in a Southern small town during the 30s. When a surprising rescuer saves Jem and Scout from the evil of one bitter man, they also learn that things are not always the way they seem.

The ending of To Kill a Mockingbird (slipcased edition) was just a beginning, in a sense, as Scout, our narrator, comes to understand what Atticus has been saying all along…most people are “nice,” too, “when you finally see them.”