Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classic novel published in 1960. It tells the story of Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the 1930s.
Through the characters and events in the book, readers can take away many valuable pieces of advice. Here are a few of the most impactful lessons one can learn from Lee’s first novel:
1. Stand up for what is right, even if it is difficult.
Throughout the novel, the character of Atticus Finch is portrayed as a man of great moral courage. The patriarch takes on the case of Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of rape, despite knowing it will be an uphill battle. Atticus teaches his children the significance of standing up for what is right, whether challenging or unpopular.
This lesson is particularly relevant today when we face many challenges that require moral courage.
2. Practice empathy and understanding.
One of the novel’s central themes is empathy. Atticus tells his children, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
By practicing empathy, we can learn to understand and appreciate the experiences and viewpoints of others, even if we disagree with them. This lesson is crucial in today’s polarized world, where it can be easy to demonize and dismiss those with different beliefs or backgrounds.
3. The value of education.
Atticus places a high value on education and encourages his children to read and learn as much as possible. He tells them, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience,” emphasizing the importance of critical thinking and independent thought. Education is about acquiring knowledge and developing the necessary skills and values to make informed decisions and lead fulfilling lives.
4. Avoid prejudice and stereotyping.
Maycomb (like most American towns during that time) is divided along racial lines, and many white characters hold prejudiced views toward African Americans. The consequences of this prejudice are devastating, as we see in the case of Tom Robinson. The novel shows us that discrimination harms the individual being discriminated against and has broader societal implications. It leads to injustice, inequality, and division and can only be overcome through education, understanding, and empathy.
5. There is power in storytelling.
Throughout the novel, we see the power of storytelling. Scout’s fascination with the local gossip and the stories told by her father and the other adults in her life help her to understand the world around her and develop her sense of morality. The novel itself is a powerful story, and its enduring popularity attests to the ability of storytelling to inspire, educate, and entertain.
6. Be kind and compassionate.
Atticus tells his children that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” because they “don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.” This statement is a metaphor for the innocent and vulnerable members of society who should be protected and cherished. The novel teaches us to be kind and compassionate towards less fortunate people and stand up for the underdog.
7. Embrace curiosity and a love of learning.
Throughout the novel, Scout’s curiosity and love of learning are encouraged by her father and others in her community. Her curiosity leads her to ask questions and seek answers, even when they are uncomfortable or challenging. This spirit of interest and inquiry is essential for personal growth and intellectual development.
Takeaway: Overall, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a powerful and enduring work of literature that continues to impact readers of all ages and backgrounds. It offers valuable lessons about the importance of empathy, courage, education, and the power of storytelling, and it reminds us of the enduring importance of justice and equality in our society.