To Kill A Mockingbird Empathy Analysis

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In Katie Rose Guest Pryal’s article, she discusses the absence of cross-racial empathy in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, using different events in the book to prove her point. Initially she begins with a definition of empathy stating “the power of projecting one’s personality into (and so fully comprehending) the object of contemplation” (176). Then discussing the sparsity of black characters conveying their feelings of a white dominant society, Pryal states that the whites show little interest in empathizing with them. Continuing, with the misconception between sympathy and empathy, Pryal believes that sympathy is exhibited in the book rather than empathy. She believes that Atticus did not empathize with Tom Robinson and that Atticus …show more content…
Atticus teaches an important life lesson about empathy and the inability to understand another’s feelings unless one, “climb[s] into his skin and walk[s] around in it for a while” (39). A variety of opinions may exist as to whether or not Atticus practices his belief of empathy towards others. Basing her argument on examples from the book, Katie Rose Guest Pryal concludes that To Kill a Mockingbird fails to demonstrate cross-racial empathy. Yet, set in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s, the novel consistently illustrates cross-racial empathy and asserts that the ability to experience a situation from another person’s viewpoint exists. Harper Lee invites readers to place themselves in the racially prejudiced South and experience the lessons learned from Atticus, the trial, and the conviction, from the standpoint of simplicity and innocence, through the empathy of a young …show more content…
Atticus attempts everything possible to convince the jury of Tom’s innocence and pursues proving the Ewell family guilty instead of asking the jury to empathize with a black man with whom they would find it difficult. Even though, “Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed” (323), Atticus seeks “blind justice” from the jurors and encourages them to confront the facts, disregard the prejudices, and convict the worthy party (Pryal 179). Atticus experiences intense empathy, fathoming the predicament for Tom following the trial. When presenting to the jury, “...he took out his handkerchief...we had never seen him sweat…”, indicating Atticus’s tremendous empathy and his emotions becoming physical (273). Totally engaged in his argument, feeling passionate about the case, Atticus immerses himself in his closing argument and expresses his empathetic feelings, which he previously never publicly articulated. Although the final verdict of the trial pronounces Tom Robinson guilty because of racism and pressure from popular opinion, the length of time the jury took to reach a verdict indicates the occurrence of empathy. Miss Maudie proclaims, “Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win, but he’s the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that and I thought to myself, well, we’re making

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