Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory on To Kill a Mockingbird

Mackenzie Regen

Reviewed By: Annie Hajost and Madison Tabler


To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic piece of American literature written by Harper Lee in 1960. It is a tale about Atticus and his family, which includes his two kids Jem and Scout. He is a lawyer to an African American that has been falsely accused of raping a white girl in the community. The short snippet that we read is class starts out with Scout and Jem walking home from school after a performance in the evening. They suddenly start to hear sounds behind them when out of nowhere a man tries to attack them both. The two helpless kids were screaming when a saving grace comes to save them. Boo Radely kills Bob Ewell, who is the father to the women that falsely accused Tom Robinson of raping her, with a knife. Boo brings the kids safely home to Atticus. Atticus calls the family doctor to have him look at Jem’s wounds. Mr. Tate the sheriff of the town comes over to find out what is exactly going on. The men are trying to figure out how to handle the situation and what they should tell the community. After much discussion, young Scout brings to the men’s attention that, “Well it would be foolish shooting a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”. Showing that Boo did no harm and was only trying to help the kids. Sadly, he killed someone in the crossfire but in the end, it was beneficial because it saved the kids but it also took a horrible man out of the community. Through Boo saving the kids he satisfied many needs of his own.

       Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Psychological Review” in 1943. In this paper, was a theory titled, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, any person’s behavior can be understood primarily as the effort directed to satisfy a particular level of need in the hierarchy. The behavior Boo took part in, killing Bob Ewell, effected his motivation which in turn lead to him gaining levels of needs. Maslow would look at Boo and see a lonely and scared individual hurt from the past, looking to try to revive his life. The lowest level of the pyramid is physiological needs: food, water, rest. Boo has a roof over his head and food to satisfy his hunger so that bottom level is already fulfilled. Once one level of the pyramid is achieved you can move on to the next. Moving on to the next level is security needs: safety and security. These levels are fulfilled because Boo’s house is protected because he knows no one will ever go in there since the community fears him but he does wish he had more security in life and with friends. When Mr. Tate decides to not say that it was Boo that killed Bob Ewell, Boo knows that his community is here to protect him. The next level is belongingness needs: intimate partners and friends. Boo wants to satisfy these needs because if he didn’t he would not have had the motivation to go out of his way to help Scout and Jem. The motivation to be loved allowed for Boo to go out of his house for the first time in years and help the kids which he would leave presents for. The second to highest level of the pyramid is esteem needs: feeling accomplished. Boo finally feels like he did something to help someone else, although it is not realized to him until after he finds out that it is ok that he killed Bob. Boo didn’t satisfy the last need which is self-actualization: fulling one’s full potential. He didn’t complete the last level because this was just the start to his new life and how he is going to live from now on. The motivation was there the whole time to help these kids and get out of his home. Through taking part in this act he gained many needs which will allow him to become a better person. 


I decided to comment on Ashley’s post about Kant and To Kill a Mockingbird. I agree with her during her first section of her post where she talks about how Kant would not really care that Jem tried to save his sister. It is just an action in life that you are supposed to do and there is nothing truly special about it. She is also right in the way that Kant would think that Jem might have protected Scout out of his own self-interest. Additionally, I agree that Boo did not save Scout and Jem for his own selfish reason but I do think he was motivated to help them. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, Boo might have saved the kids because he had needs that he subconsciously needed to be meet. Ashley, how do you feel about that?

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