A habit is a regular or repeated practice that is hard to break or lose: “Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do” (Sean Covey). Habits are tied into morals. Morals are principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or impurity of human character. Morality in human charcracter demonstrates itself in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, as an attorney who must hopelessly strive to prove the innocence of a coloured man who is wrongly accused of rape due to the impurity of Maycomb Society. Throughout this journey, moral growth gets put on full display. Moral growth is not something that just happens overnight. There are many factors and experiences that influence moral growth. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird manifests the idea that moral growth is heavily influenced by mistakes made, the influence of loved ones, and the socioeconomical opportunities in one’s society.
Moral growth is heavily influenced by the mistakes one makes. For instance, when Scout concludes that the attitude she has towards Boo Radley at the beginning of the novel is immoral, she reflects on her past actions:
I sometimes [feel] a twinge of remorse, when passing by the old place, at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment to Arthur Radley- what reasonable recluse wants children peeping through his shutters, delivering greetings on the end of a fishing pole, wandering in his collards at night. (Lee 242)
Scout feels remorse for what she does to Boo Radley. As she makes mistakes, she realizes the fault in her past actions. Children do not have a good sense of right from wrong due to their developing cognitive abilities, which causes them to make a lot of mistakes. But as one grows up, one recognizes those mistakes and can learn from them, which Harper Lee demonstrates through the character of Scout. In addition to Scout growing morally, Uncle Jack develops morality from mistakes he makes when disciplining Scout. Scout fights Francis (a younger cousin) because he called Atticus a “n**** lover”.
Uncle Jack, without hearing both sides of the story, romps Scout: “‘You ain’t fair’… ‘in the first place you never stopped to gimme a chance to tell you my side of it- you just lit right into me… Atticus doesn’t just listen to Jem’s side of it, he hears mine too”(Lee 86). Uncle Jack informs Atticus about the dilemma: “Your daughter gave me my first lessons this afternoon. She said I didn’t understand children and told me why. She was quite right Atticus, she told me how I should have treated her” (Lee 87). Uncle Jack is learning from his mistakes with Scout. Uncle Jack makes a mistake, Scout tells him what he did wrong and how he can improve. Making mistakes heavily influence moral growth because of the learning curve afterwards. Uncle Jack learns this and thus he will not make the same mistake. In conclusion, moral growth is heavily influenced by the mistakes one makes due to the fact that we learn from them.
In addition to moral growth being heavily influenced by mistakes made by one’s self, it is also heavily influenced by one’s loved ones. For example, when Atticus tells Scout to stop fighting others and to keep her head up high, he is influencing her moral growth. She later remembers this when a boy named Cecil said Atticus defends n****** and demonstrates it: “My fists were clenched and I was ready to let fly. Atticus had promised he would wear me out if he ever heard of me fighting anymore; I was far too old and too big for such childish things, and the sooner I learned to hold in, the better off everyone would be (Lee 74). As a father figure and a deeply loved one in Scouts life, what he says and teaches Scout will affect her development her whole life. In this instance, Atticus teaches her a very important life lesson: to always turn the other cheek and keep one’s head help up high.
This lesson will help Scout deduce right from wrong and to keep making the more morally correct choice as she grows up since Atticus is a loved one that she trusts. Besides Scout learning from a loved one, Jem’s moral growth is also heavily influenced by a loved one. When Atticus goes out one night to the jailhouse, Jem, Scout, and Dill secretly follow him and notice a mob surrounding him. Jem quickly runs up to him. Atticus tells the Jem, Dill, and Scout to “go home” and Scout observes that “Jem shook his head. As Atticus fists went to his hips, so did Jem’s and as they faced each other I could see little resemblance between them… but somehow they were alike. Mutual defiance made them alike” (Lee 152). Jem shows true bravery for the sake of Atticus. When Atticus is in trouble, Jem stands by his side to the end. Atticus teaches the concept of bravery to Jem and how to stand up for what’s right. Jem is demonstrating Atticus’s teachings and they help him to morally grow into a more righteous person. In conclusion, moral growth is heavily influenced by loved ones that surround us.
While factors that influence moral growth can be beneficial like the mistakes one makes and loved ones, there can be negative factors too, such as socioeconomical factors. Without an education it is harder for one to develop a proper understanding of what morality is. Burris Ewell later demonstrates this when he is leaving school: “‘Sit back down please Burris’… ‘You try and make me, missus.’… ‘Burris, go home. If you don’t I’ll call the principal’… ‘I’ll have to report this’… ‘Report and be damned to ye! Ain’t no snot-nosed s*** of a school teacher… c’n make me do nothin’” (Lee 28). Burris Ewell insults Miss Caroline and leaves school abruptly. Burris’s behavior implies that his father does not teach him or the other Ewell children manners or etiquette. The Ewells do not know the difference between right and wrong and demonstrate this in the way they treat others.
In addition to a lack of education, the Ewells social status is detrimental to their relationship with the townsfolk. Atticus describes the Ewells as “trash” and says that they “had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations” (Lee 30). The townsfolk view the Ewells with contempt. When Atticus is explaining Mr. Ewell’s behavior after the trial he says that Mr. Ewell “thought he’d be a hero, but all he got for his pain…was okay, we’ll convict this negro but get back to your dump” (Lee 250). Atticus’s summary of Mr. Ewell reveals that Mr. Ewell is very delusional. Mr. Ewell thinks he’ll be a hero of the people for framing a black man but the towns people think otherwise. Mr. Ewell is so distant from the townsfolk that he grossly underestimates their reactions. These influence moral growth negatively and make the Ewells disliked members of society. In conclusion socioeconomical factors such as lack of education and understanding can heavily influence moral growth.
In conclusion, moral growth takes time to develop and cannot be done alone as portrayed in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. It takes many influences and experiences that heavily influence moral growth. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird explores the correlation between moral growth and the factors that influence it. Firstly, moral growth is heavily influenced by mistakes made such as when Scout feels remorse for what she did to Boo Radley, and Uncle Jack who learned from Scout what he should do next time. Secondly, loved ones heavily influence moral growth like when Atticus teaches Scout not to fight and when Jem stands up and shows bravery for Atticus. Lastly, socioeconomical factors can heavily impact one’s moral growth. For example, the Ewells do not have an education or manners and have a horrible moral growth. In the world today, there are many influences and experiences that affect one’s moral growth. They can be both a positive or a negative influence. That is just humans: to be influenced by the world around us and the people amongst us.