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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In the town of Maycomb, the responder sees both the good and bad sides of human nature. How far do Jem and Scout’s experiences in Maycomb support this idea?

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At the beginning of the novel Jem and Scout assume that people are good because they have never seen evil, but by the end of it, they have grown, confronted evil, and had to incorporate it into their understanding of the world.


Jem and Scout’s experiences in Maycomb reveal the good and bad sides of human nature very clearly to the responder and to themselves. Atticus defending Tom Robinson is the best example of good human nature, although as a direct result, the bad side of Maycomb is brought out and directed at Jem and Scout. Prejudice is evident in Maycomb, and many experiences demonstrating the bad side of human nature revolve around it.


As Atticus explains, rather than being simply creatures of good or creatures of evil, most people have both good and bad qualities. You simply have to appreciate their good qualities and understand their bad qualities by trying to see life from their perspective. “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.”


There are definitely experiences in which Jem and Scout show the responder the good side of human nature, such as Miss Maudie’s fire, where the whole community came together to help. While Jem and Scout are outside in the freezing cold watching the neighbours help rescue furniture from Miss Maudies burning house, someone sneaks up behind Scout and places a blanket around her shoulders. In all the excitement, Scout does not even realise that this has happened until Atticus notices the blanket and wonders where it came from. Jem is the first to figure out that the blanket can have come only from Boo Radley, since he was the only person in the neighbourhood who was not helping at the scene of the fire. The responder can see that Scout herself has a few bad qualities; she has a tendency to believe everything she hears and form strong opinions, such as those regarding Boo Radley. She is terrified by the thought that he was actually able to sneak up behind her without her knowing it, although all he was doing was trying to help. Later on in the novel, Boo saves Jem and Scouts life from the hands of the deranged Mr. Ewell.


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Through Jem’s experiences with Mrs Dubose, the responder learns that she did indeed have a respectable side. Although Mrs Dubose was always hurling abuse at the children, she was determined to give up her morphine addiction before she died. Atticus realises this, and is always saying nice things to her in spite of what she has to say back.


Mrs. Dubose calls Atticus a Negro lover and says he is no better than who he works for. Jem and Scout get extremely upset about this, and Jem, in a display of weakness, cuts the top off every camellia bush that Mrs. Dubose has. When Atticus goes home, he finds out what Jem did, Jem explains how Mrs. Dubose called Atticus names. Atticus says, To do something like this to a sick old lady is inexcusable. I strongly advise you to go down and have a talk with Mrs. Dubose.


It is obvious to the responder through all of Jem and Scout’s experiences that Atticus is the best example of good human nature. He was always the one who stood up for what was right, not what the more popular thing to do was. Atticus shows bravery and morality when he takes Toms case despite knowing that his town would turn against him and his children. Tom Robinsons case is something that goes to the essence of a mans conscience�Scout, I couldnt go to church and worship God if I didnt try to help that man…..before I can live with other folks Ive got to live with myself. The one thing that doesnt abide by majority rule is a persons conscience. Atticus already knew the likely outcome of the situation, he was licked a hundred years before they had even started, yet he still tried his hardest. Atticus believed in fighting a battle even if you knew it was lost. The community’s attitude towards Atticus’ choice to defend Tom definitely reveals a nasty side of human nature and there is definite cowardice in directing their slander towards Jem and Scout, telling them that their father is a ‘nigger lover’.


The attempted lynching of Tom by the farmers while he is at Maycomb Jail, shows weakness. Tom has not been proven guilty, yet the ‘Sarum bunch’ assemble near the town jail the night before Toms trial in order to start a lynching. Scout is unaware of what is happening when she jumps into the situation and starts talking to Mr. Cunningham, but through talking to him, she reveals his decent side, and he eventually backs off.


The responder can learn a lot about the sides of human nature in Maycomb through one of the most significant experiences in both Jem and Scout’s life, the court case. The Ewells were the lowest family in Maycomb society, but Mayella was white and Tom was black � no matter how trashy she was, her honour had to be upheld against a Negro. The fact that Bob and Mayella Ewell would accuse an innocent black man with a family and play with his life just to save their own status shows the unjustness of human nature. What’s worse is that the jury actually goes against the direction of all evidence to convict Tom, which shows the responder that Maycomb has a very unjust side when it comes to racial issues.


When Gilmer cross-examines Tom, he calls him ‘boy’ and treats him with blatant disrespect. He asks Tom why he had helped Mayella so many times without ever taking her money. Tom explains that he felt sorry for Mayella who always seemed to do all the work on the property and had to take care of so many children. He was simply a genuinely kind person.


Maycomb overall exhibits many sides of human nature to the responder, most falling into ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and as Jem and Scout grow up and start to understand the world more, the responder also gets a deeper understanding of the the town’s mentality, and the sides of human nature displayed in Maycomb.





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