Ethics: the Keys to Morality

Ethics: the Keys to Morality

James Weiss English 11H-2 March 11, 2009 Ms. Walker Ethics: The Keys to Humanity’s Forbearance Morality is not a virtue that many can tolerate without a conscience. It was considered the critical awareness of humanity’s standards of conduct that are accepted as proper. Yet, for Scout, morality becomes not only a principle, but also a necessity in order for her to survive in the prejudiced society of Maycomb County. It is solely the essence of ethics that causes her to frown upon the injustices brought about by intolerance.

Thus, Scout’s maturity towards understanding the vitality of morality allows her to become a noble individual in an unjust social order. Scout’s innocence is solely a consequence of her age and prevents her from truly understanding the complexities of the South in the 1930’s. Her world is insular and small: her home county of Maycomb, Alabama, “an old town […] a tired old town/ […] / There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with. Maycomb had […] nothing to fear but fear itself” (Lee 6).

As Maycomb is a genuine Southern community, its values and customs are old-fashioned. Progress has been halted due to the discrimination that is still heavily embedded within its population. Although Scout interprets the weariness of her town quite literally, it is more symbolic of the general tenets and out-dated beliefs of a racist community. Moreover, her age is an obstacle that impairs her ability to comprehend the dire circumstances of the Great Depression and discount the meaning of President Roosevelt’s ominous words.

Yet, she is not wholly ignorant of the effects of the depression, which leads her to become very curious about the economy at such a young age; ” [her] honest and often confused reactions reflect [her] development as [a person] and also helps the reader gauge the moral consequences of the novel’s events” (Felty 298). While Scout may not be aware of the rampant bigotry that exists, she is not naive to how the poor are marginalized and that a stigma is attached to it; there is a latent prejudice that surfaces because of the community’s influence. Although she does not intend to be biased, her subconscious betrays her.

Furthermore, Lee maintains Scout’s innocence by channeling the adult Jean-Louise with the focus of Scout’s childhood. Lee depicts the destitution of the 1930’s, and its impact upon a child’s point of view in order to form the reality that ” the crash hurt the country real bad, but didn’t hurt [Scout’s] county none. We’re still just as poor. I watched breadlines elongate and workloads decrease/ […] / must [have] been something terrible” (Lee 223, 224). The crash of the stock market, a rather complex calamity for a six year-old girl to follow, was the consequence of a failing economy.

Scout’s innocence, however, is tainted by a failing society whose injustice becomes paramount to the economic crisis. In addition, to emphasize the innocence portrayed in Jean-Louise as a child, ” [Scout’s innocence] denotes a pinnacle of civilized progress. [She is] the most civilized, the most humane, the wisest character” (Johnson 302). Innocence can only become an obstruction for Scout due to her undeveloped conception of a world surrounding her own. Her age compromises her ability to develop as well as her ability to attain her highly-coveted experience of which Maycomb deprives her, and deters her growth, leading towards her naivety.

The societal pressures that exist for Scout cause her to question whether her allegiance is to her kind or to mankind, which, as a result, calls her to question the legitimacy of discrimination. Due to her undeveloped sense of equity, Scout seeks refuge in Atticus. Atticus’ agreeing to represent Tom Robinson in his trial defines the morals and principles by which Scout should live. His motive causes Scout to feel alienated within her own society, whereby he distances himself in society in order to compel his children to ignore the intolerance that surrounds them.

However, Scout’s small town mentality and experiences at school cause her to question her father’s decision and method, “Atticus, do you defend [ni–ers]? ” To which he replies, ” ‘don’t say [ni–ers] Scout. It isn’t polite” (Lee 122). Although Scout realizes that Atticus has indirectly answered her question, she is still undecided as to whether or not she should subscribe to Maycomb’s intolerance, since she is still quite impressionable, and contests Atticus’s decisions. Furthermore, her impressionability, apart from its derivation from her gender, undoubtedly forces Scout and her generation to become the key towards social change, and ight the wrong that injustice imposes upon various individuals. Scout’s age and gender encumber her ability to form her own opinions throughout the novel. Yet, Atticus conveys the importance of morality and equality by demonstrating a level of acceptance towards his client and his client’s ethnicity. It is not that Scout underestimates her father, but rather, that she is very young, perhaps too young, to understand his motive and the prejudice that is attached to his case. Likewise, the Finch’s neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley, serves to teach Scout the harm in discrimination during three separate summers.

Although Boo is made the subject of games that involve him as a murdering maniac, he becomes, “a compelling enigma […] that also represents Scout’s most personal lesson in judging others based [solely] upon surface appearance” (Felty 299). For her entire life, Scout has always developed her own impression of Boo Radley. She conceives him to be, “a hunched, yellow-toothed, squirrel-eating monster” (Lee 27), when in reality, he returns to Scout’s world, a hero by, “giving [Jem and Scout] the greatest gift of all: [their] lives” (Lee 370).

Scout’s six year-old fantasies underscore why those in her community would be ostracized by society, colored or not. Since she cannot reconcile why people discriminate only that they do, she begins to become a product of a biased society until she learns differently. Fundamentally, Boo is really no different than Tom. He experiences the same level of bigotry that Tom does and for the same reasons: prejudged, misunderstood and alienated. Furthermore, even through the actual trial, “[Scout reveals] the deep-seated racial divisions of the South and the tenacious efforts to maintain those divisions” (Felty 300).

When Robinson’s verdict is given, Dill contests as to, ” why [the guilty verdict] is unfair,” to which Scout replies, “Well after all Dill, he’s just a Negro” (Lee 84). Scout exposes her prejudiced nature by condemning Tom Robinson because of his color much like she condemns Boo for his behavior. Not only does she recognize the injustice in Tom’s trial, but also the inevitability, whereas it takes Boo saving her life and Jem’s to understand him. Maycomb is a community divided and severed by both ethnic and socio-economic strife, both for which Tom and Boo are victimized.

Even though Scout’s remark is harsh, it is the voice of naivety. Scout and Dill are both impacted by the trial and its prejudiced verdict; “[Scout] does not experience Dill’s visceral repulsion at the trial manipulations, but instead accepts the premise that black’s are treated as inferior” (Felty 300). While it seems that Scout may succumb to the prejudice that exists in Maycomb, Atticus, Boo and Tom Robinson keep Scout from losing her integrity. All three maintain their own dignity, which ultimately helps Scout develop her own.

Moreover, all three men epitomize what it means to be true, just, selfless and courageous, which extends Scout’s belief in the existence of humanity. Although Scout is young, she experiences many traumatic events that serve to make a lasting impression and seek social reform. The underdeveloped and diminutive community of Maycomb allows Scout to form relationships with most of its inhabitants. Miss Maudie Atkinson, aside from being Scout’s neighbor, acts as the maternal figure Scout and Jem lack.

She comforts the two children, and provides them with endless knowledge of Atticus lovingly. Scout craves the attention of a female presence in her life to level the imbalance left by the death of her biological mother. Although she is somewhat scarred from the loss of her real mother, Scout is shocked when, “fire spewed from Miss Maudie’s dining room windows. As to confirm what [she] saw, the town fire siren wailed up the scale to a treble pitch and remained there screaming” (Lee 92). Similarities exist between Maudie and Scout, though Scout is too young to recognize them.

For example, Scout’s loss of her mother parallels Maudie’s house fire because both objects are highly cherished by their beholders, thus confirming the fire’s representation of the fragility of value. Maudie’s house fire demonstrates the overwhelming force of inequity Maycomb has upon its citizens and their, ” [reactions] with pain and pleasure to an involvement with [their] past, [disproportional] world” (Johnson 303). The fire is an example of the more gothic elements Lee employs, suggesting that Scout can either tolerate shock or lacks the capability to understand.

The death of Scout’s mother causes unrest within the Finch household and internally for Scout. Additionally, Scout begins to achieve her maturity by reaching out to others as well as accepting the past and its worth. The consistent occurrences of disturbing elements in her world, in turn, have permanently caused her to accept life’s misfortunes, becoming second nature to Scout. For instance, Scout attributes her recognition by drawing a conclusion, “Just as the birds know where to go when it rains, I knew there was trouble [on] our street” (Lee 92).

Scout learns from her previous encounters with disaster, but does not allow them to arrest her ambitions and growth. In each part of her life, ” Scout [fails] to relate to the ordeals of daily life, especially with the torment Atticus receives ever since he takes Tom’s case, and she continues to be passive toward the strain of [her] six year-old lifestyle” (Johnson 305). Scout maintains a habitual sense of realization that aids in her finding of morality in undesirable situations, as she begins her transformation towards becoming a tolerant adult in her unjust social order.

Finally, Scout loses her ignorance by recognizing the morality that exists within Maycomb rather than recognizing the rampant evil and its corruptibility. Through the focus of different characters, Scout realizes that other citizens have been victimized by prejudice’s cruelty in Maycomb as well. Boo Radley, for instance, remains an individual in Scout’s account that helps her develop her sense of compassion and understanding. As she comes of age, Scout begins to realize, for herself, the colorless line of mankind.

This advances her, “defining [of] incivility, delineating its impact, and articulating its relationship to other categories of generalized hostility” (Cortina 57). For Scout it is the first time morality becomes tangible and begins its impact upon her society. However, Atticus metaphorically enhances Scout’s developing understanding by reminding her, “Remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. ‘ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right. She said, ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make beautiful music for us to enjoy. / […] / That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee 119). Although the main application of Maycomb County’s intolerance is towards its African-American citizens like Tom Robinson, the inhabitants also concentrate their prejudice on citizens such as Boo Radley, whose past seems to terrorize Maycomb and its people. The society ostracizes Radley by creating tales that portray him as a murdering psychopath, just as the children do in their makeshift games, hence, Maycomb lacks, yet requires, maturity just like its children.

The term “mockingbird” is a label for civilians like Tom and Boo because, “[Tom Robinson and Boo Radley] are innocent, and would never harm anyone. Therefore, they are mockingbirds” (Smykowski). Ironically, Tom Robinson is murdered by the citizens of Maycomb County in an attempt to flee from injustice, proving how intolerance can lead to a person’s and a social order’s demise. Boo, however, prevails over the town’s and Scout’s preconceived notions. He rises above the condemnation, allowing Scout to clearly see the decency among mankind.

Boo’s actions resonate more with Scout because her principles were finally corrected, and her transformation of maturity began. Furthermore, Radley’s “actions” allow him to become, “a friend for life, but not just a friend, a guardian” (Lee 374). Scout now sees Boo as a defender of society’s integrity. In addition, Boo teaches Scout that oppression, despite its many forms, should never restrict her as a person, “attempts to reach out to the world through other means, these being Scout” (Johnson 302).

Boo symbolizes determination and insurmountable nobility for Scout. He is both a protector as well as a mockingbird through his actions and his maintainability of honor in a county that feared and excluded him. Consequently, Scout is rid of her intolerance through the actions of her fellow “mockingbirds” as she comes of age and recognizes the potential in humanity and Maycomb to become a civilized municipality. As a child grows in an environment where the needs of the few are greater than the needs of the many, balance is required to maintain stability.

Through her story, Scout has come to expose the mysteries and hardships that a child encounters and how life varies as one reaches maturity. In the beginning, a girl is torn between bias and virtue and must choose according to her own sub-conscious despite her age. She then goes on to develop her own morals and principles as she grows accustomed to the world around her. Scout’s account is a biblical review of a town on the cusp of self-destruction, and shows the progression of a determined, young girl looking for her place within its turmoil and in life.

Haven’t found the essay you want?