Countless things impact moral growth in a person, with some forms being more effective than others. In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird written by Harper Lee, three factors that can influence an individual’s moral growth are shared. The three significant elements that impact an individual’s moral development are the environment lived in, maturity, and parental guidance.

An individual’s surroundings impact a person’s moral growth. For instance, the author shows an old lady Mrs. Dubose talking back against Scout and Jem’s father, Atticus. She tells them, “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for” (Lee 135). This shows discrimination is a typical occurrence in Maycomb, Alabama, because of the active Jim Crow laws in that region, allowing prejudice against black people to take place.

Next, Scout question’s his father’s choices regarding him defending the accused Tom Robinson of rape. She tells him, “Atticus, you must be wrong….” “How’s that?” “Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong….” “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself” (Lee 139).

The author displays Scout’s ideology that the majority always wins over a person’s conscience; the majority of the people in Maycomb don’t support black people, so she thinks Atticus shouldn’t help them either. Moreover, many rumors were spread throughout the novel, with some people in Maycomb suffering prejudice that would make them feel excluded from society. Jem spreads gossip to his friend Dill from Mississippi, who is new to Maycomb, regarding Boo Radley, “He dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch” (Lee 16).

Dill plans to violate Boo’s privacy by ringing his doorbell with the letter asking him politely to come out due to feeling sorry for him. Dill tells Jem, “How’d you feel if you’d been shut up for a hundred years with nothin’ but cats to eat” (Lee 62). From a foreign city, this portrays how Dill is affected by coming to Maycomb, where gossip is commonly spread regarding Boo Radley, leading to Dill’s moral growth with his plan of action. To conclude, different places vary in the impact on an individual’s moral growth.

Additionally, maturity is another crucial factor that influences moral growth in a person. As Scout matures, she finally realizes what Atticus means when standing on the Radley porch. For example, Scout says, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough” (Lee 374). Scout matures because she realizes that you can’t judge people because of not knowing what they go through. She recognizes that Boo is a benevolent human rather than a monster from infantile tales and town gossip. Another quote that demonstrates Scout’s maturity is when she walks past the Radley residence at night.

She says, “It is a scary place though, ain’t it? Boo doesn’t mean anybody any harm, but I’m right glad you’re along” (Lee 341). This depicts Scout’s grown perception of Arthur, no longer fearing him and perceiving him as a timid, gracious neighbour. Furthermore, as Jem grows up, he soon learns why Boo Radley would want to stay inside. Jem tells his sister, “Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time… it’s because he wants to stay inside” (Lee 304). Jem doesn’t understand why people would show hatred and prejudice toward each other, which makes him discover that he dwells in his home to avoid such individuals. Overall, growing up affects your moral growth in countless ways.

Finally, parental guidance is the third most important factor influencing a person’s moral growth. Atticus’s standards put himself and his family in dispute with the townsfolk. Atticus points out to her daughter how to behave with honor in the face of adversity. He tells her, “You hold your head high and keep those fists down… Don’t let ’em get your goat… “Atticus, are we going to win it?” “No, honey. Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win” (Lee 101). Atticus teaches Scout that there is still dignity even if they lose as long as they follow their soundest moral judgment and that she should keep her cool in hardship. In addition, Scout learns about class differences from their family’s housekeeper, Calpurnia, after Scout contradicts their guest, who is a Cunningham.

Calpurnia tells Scout, “There’s some folks who don’t eat like us,” she whispered fiercely, “but you ain’t called on to contradict ’em at the table when they don’t.”… 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” (Lee 32). Calpurnia’s moral lesson here is to respect people’s differences, even if you are better than them or not. She also addresses that acting like you are superior to others is the most foolproof way to display that you are not.

Last but not least, Atticus teaches Scout how racism works after Scout asks him if he is a nig*er lover after Mrs. Dubose calls Atticus that because of him defending a black man in court. Atticus replies, “I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you. So don’t let Mrs. Dubose get you down” (Lee 144). Atticus teaches Scout that judgmental people have enough troubles of their own, filled with despair, undergoing much more suffering themselves than they might provoke him with their vitriols. He explains to her not to let Mrs. Dubose get her down. Overall, parental advice is effective in influencing their children’s moral growth.

All in all, several factors impact moral growth in the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. The three main factors that contribute to an individual’s moral development are the surroundings you reside in, adulthood, and parental advice. 


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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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