Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird traces a young girl’s awareness of the adult world. The novel revolves around the young girl named Jean Louise Finch who goes by the nickname “Scout”. Scout experiences different events in her life that dramatically change it. Spending her childhood years living in the “tired old town” of Maycomb, there were many role-model figures that brought upon new and different experiences that affected the girl she was, and the woman she grows to be.
Scout and her older brother Jem are being raised by their father Atticus Finch. Atticus is a smart, conservative lawyer, a man of position and good reputation in the town and has close relationship with his children. He helps Scout tackle certain problems and squeezes her out of tight situations. Atticus has a great, positive impact on Scout’s life; When she learns several lessons that Atticus says will help her “get along better with all kinds of folk”. He tells her she has to think of how another person feels in order to relate to them better. His advice and teachings help her to deal with any arising difficulties that come across her life. Atticus teaches Scout a lot more than the basic skills in life such as simple manners, rules, good behaviour and how to read-which causes some problems in the future.
Scout is bright and insightful, however gets very disillusioned about school and her teacher. Before starting school, she was very impatient and excited about her first day, but when that day came, Scout learnt that it wasn’t all she made it out to be. She and her teacher Miss Caroline didn’t get along very well, and Scout didn’t understand why she was forbidden to read on her own at home. Even though she is a young child, she assumes responsibility of speaking out for her classmates and explaining their behaviour to the teacher. To her disappointment, her insights weren’t appreciated by Miss Caroline. In one days time, Scout learns several important lessons about people and behaviour.
Scout learns a lot from her family through different things she had experienced with them. The relationship that exists between Scout and Jem shows that she turns to him for comfort. As Jem is four years older, she looks up to him and wants to be like him. This explains her behaviour towards the way she dresses and acts. She is known to behave like a tom boy, as the only woman she has ever grown up with is Calpurnia, a Negro house keeper. Atticus’ sister Alexandra comes to stay with the family. She is proper and old-fashioned and wants to shape Scout into the model of t he feminine ideal, something which Scout resents and does not agree with. Scout once accompanied Calpurnia to the Negro church, where she saw the “other side” of Maycomb. She was shocked and amazed when she saw how Calpurnia spoke around her people. She got a taste of the prejudice in her town, and learnt more about the lives that these Negro adults lead.
In the story, Atticus defends a black man Tom Robinson who is being accused of raping a white girl. The lead-up to this case has a tremendous effect on Scout. Scout finds herself whispered at and taunted by both children and adults, and she has trouble keeping her temper and gets into fights when Atticus is called a “nigger-lover”. After talking to Atticus, Scout learns to use her head and not her fists-to act rational and not emotional. This is when Scout leans of the Tom Robinson trial, although she doesn’t fully understand until some adults explain is later on. After the verdict is announced in Tom Robinson’s case, guilty, Scout is left feeling both angry and confused. She learns that a black-mans status in their time is much below the white-mans, and they are treated unfairly.
Boo Radley is another citizen in Maycomb, who contributes towards Scout’s growing awareness of the adult world. Growing up, Scout had heard countless stories and rumours of what goes on in the Radley house. The night that Miss Maudie’s house was on fire, Boo placed a blanket around Scout, without her even knowing it. It was after that first rare encounter with Boo that she started changing her mind about him. After the Halloween incident where Boo saved her life, Scout learnt a lot more about him. She learnt that all the stories she had heard about him weren’t true. Boo was a timid man who didn’t cause any unnecessary harm. Scout finally sees the fear and ignorance behind her own harassment of gentle Boo. To hurt or tease Boo Radley would be as shameful as killing a mockingbird.
To Kill A Mockingbird tells of the gradual awakening of Scout Finch into the adult world. Slowly she becomes aware of the difference between truth and gossip, and learns that people and things are often more or less than what they seem. Standing on Boo’s porch she realises; “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.”
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