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English Literature

Character

We are introduced to a whole range of characters in the novel. As Jem and Scout grow up, they realise that even their small community contains many different sorts of people, some lonely and some with many friends, some good and some evil.

Scout

  • Scout is 6 years old at the start of the story and 9 at the end. She tells us the story, so it is a first person [first person: The 'I' or 'we' used by a narrator who is a participant in a narrative, in contrast to the third person - 'he', 'she' or 'they' - of a narrator who is not directly involved. ] narrative.
  • She has a very close relationship with her father, Atticus and her brother, Jem - they spend most of their time together.
  • She is very intelligent - she could read and write before she started school. She hates school because she is bored and feels stifled, and tries to persuade Atticus not to make her go.
  • She is a tomboy - she is insulted when Jem says to her "I declare to the Lord you're getting' more like a girl every day!" She tries to resist her aunt's attempts to make her a lady and wear dresses.
  • She is not afraid to fight people who insult Atticus. Later, she feels "extremely noble" when she walks away from a fight as Atticus asked.
  • She is inquisitive: for example, she wants to know about Boo Radley and go to Calpurnia's house.
  • She is well-meaning and thinks the best of people. For example, she does not realise the danger that Atticus is in when he spends the night outside Tom Robinson's cell. Her innocent attempt at polite conversation with Mr Cunningham saves the situation.
  • She thinks of others: at the start she tries to explain to her teacher why Walter Cunningham can't be loaned any lunch money; right at the end, she knows Boo will be happier in the dark of the back porch, and she arranges his arm so that it looks like he is escorting her when she leads him back to his house.

The first person narrative [narrative: The sequence of events in a plot; a story. ] is effective because:

  • It provides humour. For example, Scout screams "the world's ending" when she first sees snow and she can't understand why Atticus isn't pleased to see her when she bounds up to him when surrounded by the lynch [lynching: Executing someone (usually by hanging) without a legal trial. ] mob.
  • It provides us with a less biased viewpoint. Although Scout sees Tom Robinson as "just a Negro", she is not prejudiced against the blacks in a way that most of Maycomb's white adult inhabitants are. She is genuinely interested in going to Calpurnia's house and considers running away when Aunt Alexandra forbids it. She cannot understand her teacher's racist attitude to the blacks, when she (the teacher) is so critical of Hitler's treatment of Jews.
  • We have to work out things for ourselves. Scout is too young and too innocent to realise exactly what is going on, but when we interpret what she tells us, we understand the situation. For instance, she did not initially realise that Boo had left the presents in the tree and couldn't work out why Jem was crying when the knothole was cemented up. We realise he was crying out of sympathy for Boo.

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