In both novels there is a moral to the story which both protagonists, Scout Finch and Silas Marner learn by different means. In ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ Scout learns about the injustice of discrimination and judgement, to tolerate differences and views and to value people. She learns this through the events in Maycomb involving the Tom Robinson case and through the liberal upbringing of her Father Atticus. In ‘Silas Marner’ Silas unlearns the lesson of mistrust and regains his love and trust towards people. This is all through the loss of his gold and the arrival of a child named Eppie into his life.
The protagonist in the novel ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ is the narrator of the story, Scout, who is re-living her childhood memories through her eyes as a six year old girl. In Scout’s account of her childhood we can acknowledge the morals in the story and the way in which she learns them. Scout witnesses the prejudice and acts of discrimination by people in the society around her in Maycomb County. To be prejudice against someone means to treat a person badly or unfairly, usually because of their race but on a smaller scale the children unfairly judge Boo and Mr Raymond. The main morals in the story are based around the division between black and white people. Though from the start of the book several characters display prejudice and hatred towards other people. Silas Marner’s story is simply the morals learnt through love and how it changes his life. Silas learns the moral of trusting others which brings back his faith and friendships.
An important moral issue in ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ is the prejudiced views and unfair discrimination towards black people in Maycomb. Scout learns morals through various issues which occur through her childhood in a racist society. Even she calls black people ‘niggers’, an expression she has picked up from the people of Maycomb until corrected by Atticus. This term is insulting and Atticus wants her to understand that calling them by this name is treating them as second-class citizens. Scout’s father Atticus who is a lawyer takes on a case to defend a black man who has been accused of raping a white girl. Scout does not fully understand her father’s case but gets angry when children taunt and tease her about having a ‘nigger-lover’ as a father. The trial proceeds with Tom Robinson being accused of raping a white girl. It becomes apparent to the reader that Tom Robinson is innocent. In court the black people have to sit separately higher up on the ‘coloured balcony’ and Scout, Jem and Dill sit with them. This is because blacks were divided from white society and the white people sat down in the room as they were the superior group. Scout not only learns of the prejudiced views held in the County of Maycomb by white people, she also witnesses discrimination against Jem and herself when Calpurnia takes them to her Church.
‘Why you brinin’ white chillun to nigger church…You aint got no business bringin’ white chillun here-they got their church.’
She learns that racial discrimination can work both ways; this is through the hostile way which Lily treats them on arriving with Calpurnia.
In ‘Silas Marner’ His best friend William betrayed Silas, turning him into an outsider to his life in Lantern Yard.
‘The lots declared that Silas Marner was guilty.’
He subsequently moves to Raveloe to start a new life, replacing money for his friends. To avoid painful memories he works at his weaving, ‘like a spinning insect’. This suggests that he works in an instinctive way, without thinking or feeling.
‘Knowing and needing nothing of that trust which, for him, had been turned to bitterness.’
Silas does not recover from his past as he shuts himself from the world and loses his faith in God and the people around him. But when Eppie arrives it turns Silas’ once monotonous life around as he learns to trust in others and regains his belief in God.
‘If I lost you Eppie. I might come to think I was forsaken again, and lose the feeling that God was good to me.’
In both novels the protagonists learn through the involvement of others which has an effect on both of the characters lives. Because of Atticus’ liberal upbringing Scout treats everybody as equals. In this novel Atticus helps Scout to become aware of prejudiced views and racism. He is an honest man who treats all people equally and wants to teach his children to respect everyone no matter what the colour of their skin. Scout learns an important moral from Atticus that you have to understand people and try not to judge them. As well as not judging people, Atticus wants Scout to understand people and ‘stand in their shoes. Arthur Radley or Boo as the children call him is their source of fear, a monster or ‘haint’ in their minds. The community’s fear exaggerates his activities and as he has not been seen out of his house in fifteen years he becomes a legend. But when Boo Radley emerges to give Scout a blanket after the fire, the monster image of Boo begins to change in Scout’s mind from the result of his acts of kindness and the presents he leaves for them in the tree by their house. Boo’s greatest act of kindness is in coming to Scout and Jem’s aid when Mr Ewell tries to attack them. It is only when they actually meet Boo for the first time, Scout realises that he is a quiet, shy and gentle man.
‘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.’
As Scout takes Boo home she has begun to see the real Arthur Radley and is able to look out from his porch at what he would have looked at for the last few years and give herself a better understanding of Boo. Silas learns the joys and happiness of love that Eppie has brought in comparison to the love for his money. Sila’s life develops with the arrival of Eppie he becomes fulfilled with his pure love for her and experiences a greater happiness than he had for his gold before it was taken from him. He had an obsession with his money that used to be his focus in life.
‘And every added guinea, while it was itself a satisfaction, bred a new desire.’
His life was his money and Silas’ happiness consisted of the evenings when he would count his guineas alone in his cottage. This man once shut out from the world lived his own life of countless years with his only joy consisting of his guineas. Eppie opened his eyes to the world and slowly brought him back to reality.
The coins he earned afterwards seemed irrelevant.’
With Eppie, Silas’ passion for his coins becomes part of his past along with his memories of Lantern Yard.
‘He had been telling her how he used to count [his money] every night, and how his soul was utterly desolate till she was sent to him.’
George Elliot is writing about a man who learns to become part of the world around him, to feel love and enjoy life through the love of a child.
In ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ Scout learns that violence is not the answer to any problem. Scout uses her fists to stand up for herself and Atticus teaches tries to teach her that violence is not the solution. He tells her ‘Try fighting with your head for a change.’ Atticus teaches Scout to be at peace with her enemies, to be wiser than those who tease you or curse you. But to learn this Scout goes through the torment at school and fights until she learns to keep calm.
‘(Cecil Jacobs) had announced in the school-yard the day before that Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers.’
Scout defends herself against people taunting her about her father and calling him names, she uses fighting to stand up for herself.
‘Nigger lover…I split my knuckle on to the bone of his front teeth.’
The death of Mr Ewell comes as a shock the night he attempted to harm Scout and Jem. He intended to harm Scout and Jem and was killed by his own knife. But this ends the book with the lesson that violence does not solve anything as Mr Ewell is killed through his own cruel intentions.
‘Bob Ewell’s lyin’ on the ground… with a kitchen knife stuck up under his ribs. He’s dead Mr Finch.’
Scout learns the moral of standing up for what is just, even if you know you will fail. The stand for Tom Robinson is made with the knowledge of following failure. Tom will never win because the jury would find him guilty as accused because he is black but Atticus still defends him because he was innocent. Scout learns this through the court case and the reason why Atticus decides to accept defending him.
‘Atticus, are we going to win it?’
Atticus knows he cannot win with this case. He knows that defending Tom Robinson will have a deep effect on his family. But through the trial Jem and Scout know that Tom is innocent and so it proves the unjust division between blacks and whites.
‘I aint never seen any jury decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man.’
Scout and Jem come to realise that it is impossible for Tom to win regardless of the fact that he is innocent, simply because he is black.
‘We’re making a step-it’s just a baby step, but it’s a step.’
In this extract Miss Maudie is explaining to the children that Atticus made a stand for what is right which means that it’s a step forward for equal rights.
Silas lost faith in God when he moved to Raveloe, and decided that God could not exist. Silas’ lifestyle changes from the moment Eppie becomes a part of his life. He begins to listen to the advice of Dolly Winthrop about christening Eppie and suggestions on ways of punishing the child. Dolly becomes Eppie’s Godmother and Silas finally becomes part of the community which he has lived in for so many years completely separate from. His happiness with Eppie brings him to believe that God has not left his life and does the right thing by her for taking her to church and having her christened. Taking Eppie to church and talking to the people in the village help them to respect him and not fear the once strange, isolated Silas.
Silas learns to love and feel emotions when Eppie arrives and his old life is left behind him. The moral is that Silas was redeemed by the love which he received from Eppie. The most important lessons which he learns all stem from the existence
of Eppie in his life as a replacement for his gold. It is a moral that love conquers all and brings true happiness as Silas Marner learns.
‘His life had reduced itself to the mere functions of weaving and hoarding.’
Silas worked sixteen long hours a day and his money pile grew but he had nobody to share it with and was content living in this way.
‘His brown pot…broken into three pieces. Silas picked them up with grief in his heart.’
He loses all affection but directs it towards the money and objects he possesses, not feeling the need for the affections from people in his life.
‘But in reality it had been an eager life, filled with immediate purpose, which fenced him in from the wide, cheerless unknown…but now the fence was broken down the support was snatched away.’
Silas is left alone and vulnerable when his money is stolen. When Eppie walks into his cottage on New Years day he comes out of a trance and sees her lying in front of the fire asleep.
‘Gold!-his own gold brought back to him.’ ‘But instead of the hard coin…his fingers encountered soft warm curls.’
Silas mistakes her hair to be his stolen gold but then eventually realises that it is a child lying there. There is irony with the ‘golden curls’ imagery, as Silas’gold has been replaced by Eppie. Impulsively he decides ‘I’ve a right to keep it,’ and eventually, through the child, his life transforms a second time. His goodness, and other good qualities, had gone dormant and are reawakened through Eppie.
Silas learns that his life is happier with the pure love for Eppie than he ever had with his gold. He is redeemed by the love which Eppie gives him throughout her life. She trusts him and cares about him and Silas’ life changes as a parent to love and care for her. The morals of unlearning mistrust and regaining his love and religion by Silas throughout the book are all the cause of the baby girl who toddled into his cottage that night, replacing is empty love for his gold coins with real love and trust again for others.
Both ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ and ‘Silas Marner’ are stories with a moral. The protagonist in each book learns these morals but by different means. Silas learns the morals in his life about love and faith ‘unlearning’ mistrust by the arrival of Eppie. Through the love for Eppie and the love he receives in return he can forget about his past of betrayal and his goodness is reawakened by her. Silas was a lonely man with a focus on his money until Eppie made him regain his faith and religion. Silas Marner learns morally through the loss of his gold and the arrival of Eppie who opens him up to the world around him.
Scout in ‘To Kill a Mocking bird’ learns morally through the event of the Tom Robinson case. Without a full understanding about discrimination she gets to experience and learn about the unjust ways in which black people were treated. Sticking up for her father in playground taunting she learns not to fight and she sees the consequences of violence of Mr Ewell’s death. Scout begins to ‘see’ people as they really are and is able to understand better what causes pain and injustice in the world. Scout learns morally the wrongs of discrimination, violence and judging people. She learns this through court case and the liberal upbringing of her father Atticus. Each of the protagonists learns important morals which have affected their ways of thinking and viewing the world. This is through the understanding and influence of other people.