Kant’s take – To Kill a Mockingbird

Cole Caminiti

Reviewed by Teig Lesko and Nick Hart


I read an excerpt from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The text depicts two young children, Scout and Jem, coming home from a school Halloween pageant late at night when suddenly they begin to feel eerie. After walking for quite a bit, Jem insists that they stop because he thinks he hears something following them. Together they come to a conclusion that their friend Cecil is slowly trekking behind just to give them a quick scare before they get home. Scout and Jem make jokes aimed towards Cecil but get zero response as the sinister silence continues. Realizing that a mysterious entity is following, they begin to grow fearful. All of the sudden Scout gets wrapped up in wire while Jem is thrown to the ground. Panic erupts as the children scream for help. With no one able to hear them they tried to scurry to each other but were separated in the scuffle. While Scout was busy getting untangled from the wire, Jem was in a fight for his life. SNAP… Scout hears a loud noise and calls for Jem who is now completely silent. Scout sees a dark figure dragging a body to her house and is greeted by her aunt to come inside. Arthur Radley was the man who bought Jem into the house, a reserved recluse that hardly steps foot outside his own house. Now, Jem is unconscious in his bed, and the sheriff and doctor have been called and are on their way over. After being pronounced alive and in decent health, parents and the sheriff begin to discuss the night’s events. Sheriff Tate walks over to examine the scene and comes across the dead body of Bob Ewell, the angry town drunk, with a kitchen knife in his chest. The Sheriff and the family debate how Mr. Ewell was killed but with only a fuzzy recollection of the event from Scout, they do not have any hard evidence. They come to a conclusion that there is no way that Jem could have killed Bob Ewell because he was too weak at the time, and he must have tripped over a root and accidentally stabbed himself.

Kant focuses his work on the actions and motivation it takes to make a decision, which determines if it is moral or not moral. He states that an act is not moral unless it comes from a sense of duty. If someone has an inclination to do something then it is unmoral. Kant would be fond of Atticus and his sense of duty to tell the truth to the town. He would say that his act is moral because he did not want to call his son a murder. Atticus felt a duty, to tell the truth to everyone and not try and cover it up. Atticus did not want Jem to have a darkness hanging over his head if the murder were to be covered up, he wanted the truth to come out. Atticus said , “If this thing’s hushed up it’ll be simple denial to Jem of the way I’ve tried to raise him…Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him… if I connived at something like this, frankly I couldn’t meet his eye, and the day I can’t do that I’ll know I’ve lost him.” (534). In the case of Arthur Radley, Kant could see his actions of saving the children as moral because he was being a good citizen and felt that it was his duty to help the kids. I think that Kant would also say his actions are immoral because he did have an emotional connection to the kids (sewing pants, leaving treats in the tree). In this situation, Arthur could have noticed Bob Ewell had bad intentions towards the family and felt inclined to put him to rest when Jem and Scout were attacked. In response to McGovern 223 on Kant and Moral Hazard, Kant would say that it is her duty to put him to rest. It is her duty to end his pain and suffering in the hospital and let him pass away. Kant would say that the doctor’s actions are moral because he is trying to save a dying man and it is his duty to do so. While he may not want to resuscitate him because Cath is telling him that he is a DNR, it is his duty to revive Bailey.


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