Morals are the principles of knowing the distinction between what is good and what is evil, what is right and wrong. Morals are the ability to have compassion and sympathy for someone else and their circumstances within their life and understand that it’s a necessity. Dalai Lama said it best when he states, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” In the film, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s main character, lawyer Atticus Finch, shows morality by exhibiting it through his overwhelming amount of compassion and sympathy throughout the film. However, he instills it most into his children.
Its within the wisdom of Mr. Finch’s ability to have patients and compassion to teach his own daughter, Scout, that she too must feel sympathy for those less fortunate and “you will never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,” (Lee, 1960). It’s during this scene in which Scout finds solace upon the front porch swing after getting scolded at dinner that Atticus tries to get her to understand that you will never understand what someone else is going through unless you place yours into their position. Atticus states, “Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” (Lee, 1960), which is a quote that we have modified in today’s society but is understood with the same comprehension. With the high-key lighting within the scene that provide minimum shadows upon Atticus and Scout, to the normal focus of the lens that is angled up from the view of the porch floor, you feel like you part of the conversation in which she is not just learning how to have morals, but also learning how to compromise, not with just school but with life in general. According to Rachel Watson, “The porch functions as a location with which viewer’s associate safety, solutions borne from compromise and the moral lesson of sympathetic point of view.”
Ethics is the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior. Thomas A. Edison stated, “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” I believe this quote fits the scene in which Atticus is guarding over Tom Robinson, his Africa-American client who is waiting for his trial based on the accusation of raping a white woman, when a lynch mob approaches. Atticus believes it’s his ethical duty to do what is in the best interest of his client, and that means protecting him against the lynch mob. He is peacefully guarding Robinson when his kids visit spy him through the pushes, then he is in a verbal confrontation with the lynch mob when his children can’t see him and with worry of “I can’t see Atticus,” flees into the mob until they reach their father. It’s during this time frame that Scout talks about Mr. Cunningham’s lack of social-economic stature that the lynch mob comes to their own moral and ethical understanding that they won’t injure Tom Robbins due to the presence of the children.
With the starting of the scene in a distance view from the point-of-view from the children hiding in the bushes along the road, with only a high-key light shining upon Atticus, it shows him seated and reading, with the lamp which lights the porch of the jail. It’s the roar of the cars of the lynch mob that lurk from the shadows of the streets into the light, which is projected from the streetlamp above the jail, to the lamp on the porch shining upon the guns in which they carry and insist on seeing Robinson. The director uses the point-of-view of both Atticus and the lynch mob instead of panning to assist the views with the idea that they are part of the scene, to include having a head-on angle framing from the view of the mob that shows shoulders of the lynch mob. It’s the camera tracking when the children run through the lynch mob that assists the audience with the ability of being in the position of the children, pondering what is going on and why the confrontation. It’s the natural lighting of the moon that places the cars into view from down the road to the lamp above the jail that provides the high-key lighting elements that connects us to each main character.
The elements of the mise-en-scene within ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ provide the capture of how society was seen in the 1930’s. It’s the old-fashioned black-and-white film that doesn’t have much lighting that showcases the vulnerability of Scout’s building of moral ethics to Atticus’ high ethical values that come across with his ability to protect his client while facing a lynch mob. It’s the costumes of each character identifying them to the economic standing within society: Atticus’ business suit that shows that he is organized to the lynch mobs overalls, t-shirts and jeans (farmer’s clothes), to Scout’s dresses that are slightly covered in dirt because of her tomboy ways. It’s the significance of the porch providing comfort to Scout when she is swinging on the porch seat to the porch outside of the jail that provides security to Atticus and Tom Robinson when the lynch mob approaches. The zoom of the camera lens to show the reactions of Scout’s understand of compromise to Walter’s reaction to Scout’s acknowledgment when he is in the lynch mob, and particularly, divulging the information of him dropping of goods to her house. It’s these techniques of the movie that was made in 1962 that didn’t subtract from the messages that were being conveyed throughout an amazing film about morals and ethics being built within a society that was still struggling with prejudice and injustice