The Art of Compassion
The world through the eyes of a young girl can be frightening. There are horrible things and people behind every corner in life. However, there’s compassion out there, and anything from helping someone in need to simply seeing the world from another’s perspective can spark a perception of empathy and understanding in the young girl’s heart. All that she has to do is look around and find it. Compassion is a feeling of sympathy and pity for someone, accompanied by the will to act positively upon those feelings. The story To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee constitutes coming of age. Throughout the story, the subjects of compassion and empathy are important recurrences. In the story, there are two characters that stand out with compassion, Atticus Finch and Jean Louise Finch (Scout).
Atticus is the father of Jem and Scout, as well as an embodiment of compassion. He teaches the children the importance of compassion and empathy throughout the novel. During chapter two, it is shown that Atticus helped Walter Cunningham with his entailment. This is an act of compassion, the discussion goes, “‘Mr. Finch, I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to pay you back.’ ‘Let that be the least of your worries Walter’” (Lee 27). Atticus’s willingness to help Walter, despite not being able to get paid back very soon is a clear indication of his compassion and ability to help others despite their status. Additionally, Atticus doesn’t stop there. During chapter 14, Atticus notices that Dill had run away from home and came to their house. His reaction is empathetic and shows how he cares about Dill: “‘Just hungry I’ll bet’ Atticus’s voice had it’s usual pleasant dryness ‘Scout, we can do better than a pan of cold cornbread can’t we? You fill this][fellow up and when I get back we’ll see what we can see.’” (Lee 189). This shows that Atticus values Dill’s choices and cares about his health as he not only feeds him, but lets him stay the night with them as well.
Jean Louise Finch (Scout) is a young white girl and the narrator of the story. As the novel progresses, she learns the importance of compassion and what it means to have it. During chapter 11, Scout performs an act of compassion towards Jem when she voluntarily goes with him to read to Mrs. Dubose despite not having to. The scene says, “The following Monday afternoon, Jem and I climbed the steps to Mrs. Dubose’s house and padded down the open hallway” (Lee 141). Even though Scout didn’t have to go, she felt sympathy for Jem and went with him to serve his punishment by his side. In another instance, chapter 31 shows scenes of Scout being kind to Boo Radley and making him feel comfortable and welcome in their home: “He was still holding my hand and gave no sign of letting go. ‘Will you take me home?... Boo and I walked up the steps to the porch. He gently released my hand opened the door, went inside and shut the door behind him. I never saw him again” (Lee 372-373). Scout made an effort to make Boo feel welcome and even helped him get home by escorting him to the porch.
Based on the stated ideas, Atticus and Scout Finch display the most compassion in the length of the novel. They assist others and are kind to everyone. Throughout the story, these two characters perform many acts of compassion and empathetic qualities to multiple people. They do their good deeds because of their compassionate behavior, and consistent urge to help others. Compassion can be difficult to find in this world, but it’s there, just waiting to be discovered by the child seeking it.
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