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to kill a mockingbird

What characters show empathy in To Kill a Mockingbird, and how do they do so, using quotes?


There are numerous examples of characters displaying empathy by viewing situations from other people's perspectives, practicing tolerance, and sympathizing with others. In chapter 3, Jem invites Walter Cunningham Jr. over to lunch, and Scout proceeds to criticize him for pouring syrup all over his meal. Calpurnia demonstrates empathy for Walter Jr. by chastising Scout for her rude behavior and instructing her to treat him with respect, regardless of his unorthodox eating habits. Cal realizes that Walter Jr. feels embarrassed and ashamed, which is why she tells Scout,

Don’t matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house’s yo‘ comp’ny, and don’t you let me catch you remarkin’ on their ways like you was so high and mighty! Yo‘ folks might be better’n the Cunninghams but it don’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin‘ ’em—if you can’t act fit to eat at the table you can just set here and eat in the kitchen! (Lee, 25)

In chapter 11, Mrs. Dubose upsets Jem by calling him derogatory names. Atticus demonstrates empathy for Mrs. Dubose by instructing Jem to maintain his composure and practice tolerance. Atticus tells his son,

Jem, she’s old and ill. You can’t hold her responsible for what she says and does. Of course, I’d rather she’d have said it to me than to either of you, but we can’t always have our ‘druthers. (Lee, 108)

In chapter 16, Jem asks Miss Maudie if she is going to watch Tom Robinson's trial. Miss Maudie shows empathy for Tom Robinson by telling Jem,

I am not. ‘t’s morbid, watching a poor devil on trial for his life. Look at all those folks, it’s like a Roman carnival. (Lee, 161)

Following Tom Robinson's tragic death, Scout mentions that the majority of Maycomb forgot about the entire incident two days after his death, but she discusses reading Mr. Underwood's editorial in the newspaper. Mr. Underwood demonstrates empathy for Tom Robinson throughout the article, and Scout elaborates on Mr. Underwood's words by mentioning,

Mr. Underwood didn’t talk about miscarriages of justice, he was writing so children could understand. Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children. (Lee, 244)

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