Family Relationships in to Kill a Mockingbird

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The novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, predominantly tells the story of the Finch family: Atticus, Jean Louise “Scout” and Jeremy Atticus “Jem” Finch. The story is told from the perspective of Scout in the 1930s (during the time of the Great Depression). The adult Scout is telling the story of her childhood through memory and giving the readers the coming-of-age story that, we can only imagine, shaped the stance she takes toward social issues in her adult life.

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Atticus Finch is a predominant lawyer in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama who is defending Tom Robinson, a black man who was falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. Meanwhile, Scout and Jem along with their summer friend, Dill, become fascinated with seeing their reclusive neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley.

This novel explores the experiences the children have as they become aware of the social inequality and other examples of darkness in their fictitious town of Maycomb. The phrase “To Kill a Mockingbird” refers to the belief in the novel that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. The story begins when Scout and Jem meet their summer friend, Dill. When we first meet Scout, she is very high in neuroticism as she tends to experience unpleasant emotions easily. She is low in conscientiousness because she uses violence as the answer for everything, as this shows for her neuroticism that she is quick tempered and lacks self-control. “Atticus had promised me 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 everybody would be.”

She is outspoken to the point where people find her to be rude. She responds to insults by fighting and says things at inappropriate times, and she does not hesitate question other people. An example of this is when Jem invites Walter Cunningham Jr. over for lunch after Scout has a one-sided fight with him. Walter pours syrup over his meat and vegetables and Scout criticizes him for it. Scout is high in agreeableness as we can see through her interest in the reclusive Boo Radley as well as through her interest in her father defending Tom Robinson. This also leads to her being high in openness as she is very curious. Scout is also high in extraversion as we can see through her energy, her sociability and the enjoyment she gets from meeting new people.

Throughout the novel, we see a shift in Scout’s level of neuroticism to low as she gains better control of emotions and starts to experience sympathy for Boo Radley. “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.” Ultimately, Scout learned to think before she speaks and not let what other people think affect her. Jem is very high in agreeableness; while the other children were also interested in getting a glance at Boo Radley, it was Jem that took action to draw Boo out of his house. This also makes him low in conscientiousness and high in openness as he is most curious about getting a look at Boo, and his behavior to draw Boo out is very spontaneous and creative.

He runs up to touch the side of the Radley house, and he uses the fishing pole to leave Boo Radley a note on his window. Jem is in a middle space (not high but not low) in neuroticism; after Jem visited the Radley house alone at night, he was silent and moody for a week. He has on and off phases of wanting to hang out with his sister. Another example of him being high in agreeableness is when Tom Robinson’s guilty verdict was given. He believed his community was good, but the innocent man was not acquitted. “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.” Jem realizes that the society he lives in is not as good as he thinks it is.

He comes to the conclusion that Boo wants to stay away from the negativities and injustices present in the small town. The people of Maycomb divide themselves into different groups and proceed to show hate to one another. “If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?” Jem is also high in extraversion but not as much as his sister, Scout. He has energy, tends to be relatively sociable but unlike Scout, there is no evidence that Jem finds it easy to make new friends. He shows some energy when it is time to boss his sister around, but he is not as outspoken as she.

Atticus Finch, being the lawyer to take up a black man’s court case in the 1930s, is very high in openness; he is focused on tackling new challenges and he is very high in experience. “I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system – that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.” As a good lawyer, he is high in conscientiousness because he is organized, spends his time preparing, shows self-discipline, finishes important tasks right away, and pays attention to detail. He is also low in extraversion as he thinks about his words before he speaks.

Atticus is very high in agreeableness since he has interest in other people, cares about others, is compassionate towards other, enjoys helping other people and contributing to their happiness. “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” He is low in neuroticism because he is emotionally stable and deals well with stress. Another character, Miss Maudie, explains, “Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets.”

However, Atticus does occasionally suffer from self-doubt that we can see when his sister, Alexandra, questions his parenting of Scout since she is not “lady-like”. The novel’s title holds the metaphor for Arthur “Boo” Radley as he is a mockingbird (an innocent person with good intentions who has been hurt by the world around him), but this mockingbird is forced to kill instead of being killed like Tom Robinson. Boo Radley could be said to be high in agreeableness due to his interest in Jem, Scout and Dill. Boo watched over the children, kept them safe and gave them nice gifts. “Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives.

But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it; we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.” Boo Radley is very low in extraversion as he is extremely reserved, dislikes making small talk, and finds it difficult to start a conversation. “Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained…” This is the description Jem gives of Boo Radley in chapter 1 because the children have never seen Boo. They let the negativity that society has attached to him create the image that he is a monster and that they should be afraid of him but as we have learned, Boo was affected by his family as they hid him from the rest of the world. Boo Radley, much to the children’s surprise, is low in neuroticism.

He is very emotionally stable and relaxed as he rescued the children from Bob Ewell’s attack and kills them. The stories told in the town about how Boo is violent are false due to the fact that he saved the children from Bob in self-defense. However, he can also be said to have high neuroticism because his shyness could have something to do with it. If he doesn’t get much reward from social activity, he probably just goes without it. Boo Radley is low in openness as he is very cautious as he looks out for Scout and Jem throughout the novel. “Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day’s woes and triumphs on their faces.

They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive. Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog. Summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him.” This quote shows both Boo’s low openness but also his high conscientiousness because he is responsible and reliable and has been caring for the children.

Neuroticism is associated with anger, stress, anxiety and depression. People with higher neuroticism find that romantic relationships take more effort and divorce is more likely. Overall, neuroticism lowers with age. In one study, in men, lower neuroticism means greater fertility and more surviving offspring. In that same study, in women, the Big Five factors had no effect on fertility or the number of surviving offspring. As a woman, high neuroticism would have neither helped nor harmed Scout’s reproductive ability.

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Family Relationships In To Kill A Mockingbird. (2022, Apr 19). Retrieved from