The Standards of Love
Every society has unwritten rules that everyone respects, and it is momentous when these boundaries are crossed. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee develops the argument that love creates a loyalty that can overcome any standards. The author explores this idea when Cal takes Jem and Scout to church, when Scout refrains from fighting for Atticus, and when Atticus decides to defend Tom Robinson.
Love often develops in situations contrary to social norms, but when it does the resulting loyalty is even stronger. When Atticus leaves Jem and Scout for a weekend and forgets to tell Calpurnia directions about where the children should attend church, Cal decides to take them with her to the local black church. In times of segregation, this is a surprising decision. When the presence of two white children is questioned, Cal does not sway, asserting, “They’s my compn’y” (Lee 119). This decisiveness about a risky decision on her part demonstrates her loyalty towards the children and willingness to protect them no matter the circumstance. Cal clearly loves and trusts Jem and Scout enough to share an intimate part of her culture with them and never leaves their side even when put under fire by part of her own community. Cal also goes overboard preparing Jem and Scout for church because she doesn’t “want anybody sayin’ I don’t look after my children” (Lee 118). Cal’s referral to Jem and Scout as ‘her’ children shows she feels almost familial ties with them. The time period of this story makes what Cal feels even more significant. According to the social norms of these times, blacks should be separate from whites. Her contrary views are born from love and result in her perpetual protection of the children.
The loyalty strong love creates can often result in even more boundaries to cross, but the same powerful feelings ensure that no one will be let down. Atticus creates an uproar in Maycomb when he decides to defend Tom Robinson when he is accused of rape. Tom Robinson is a black man, and the citizens of Maycomb express many bigoted viewpoints towards the situation. When children hear their parents expressing displeasure about Atticus’s decision, they use it to taunt Scout at school. Cecil Jacobs frequently takes things too far, calling Atticus disrespectful names in front of Scout. Scout’s nature is to fight and defend the people she loves. She explains to Uncle Jack that she’ll “swear before God if [she’ll] sit there and let someone say something about Atticus” (Lee 86) This protectiveness and loyalty of her father goes against a stereotypical ‘girl,’ but Scout’s love of Atticus goes a long way in changing her actions. After a scuffle with Cecil at school, Atticus urges Scout to use her head instead of her fists. When Cecil taunts Scout the next day, Scout “drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped [her] fists and walked away, ‘Scout’s a coward!’ ringing in [her] ears” (Lee 76). Atticus’s urgings force Scout to walk away for fear of letting him down. Her love for him causes her to dramatically alter her ways and do something that hurt her own reputation. This kind of selfless loyalty completely changes Scout’s actions from their ‘norm,’ and is brought around by respect for Atticus.
This love not only reaches from person to person but also from person to ideal. Atticus’s passion for fairness and justice affects the course of his life when he feels morally obligated to defend Tom Robinson against accusations of rape. In this run-of-the-mill southern town, Atticus’s decision astounds most for what they perceive as going against their society’s attitudes. Atticus’s love dictates where his loyalty lies. He views American courts as “great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal” (Lee 205). He would rather stand with the views of a court than the views of his town, and although he drastically alters the status quo in Maycomb his loyalty wouldn’t allow him to do anything else. He feels it is his personal duty to uphold equality. As he explains to Scout, “every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally” (Lee 75). Atticus believes this to be his ‘case.’ It is significant to him because while society urges him in one direction, his entire belief system and moral ideology drags him in another. It is a dilemma that he knows the solution to and is ready to reach; yet his community stands united with the opposing idea. His love for justice creates a loyalty strong enough to overcome his ties with his town and push him against the views of his peers.
Pressure from commonly accepted views does a great deal to make people who they are, but love does even more to create ties that disregard accepted values and overcome common judgments. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee develops the argument that loyalty born from love possesses the power to leave behind restricting stereotypes or previously held ideals.
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Every society has unwritten rules that everyone respects, and it is momentous when these boundaries are crossed. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee develops the argument that love creates […]