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To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

THE NOVEL

THE CHARACTERS

  • SCOUT

    Jean Louise Finch, whose nickname is Scout, is only five-and-a-half years old when the novel begins, but she is already a complex and interesting personality. Scout's mother died when she was two and her father is a scholarly man in his fifties who has no idea of how to play with his children or talk to them on their own level. Scout has taught herself to read at an early age, and she has a vocabulary equal to that of many adults. Her habit of speaking her mind in the presence of grownups makes Scout often seem older than her years. In recalling her first day in the first grade, Scout thinks of herself and her schoolmates as little adults, who must take care of the confused first-year teachers. Later, when she is unjustly punished for getting into a fight with a cousin, Scout takes it upon herself to explain to her uncle why his methods of handling children are wrong. After these incidents we are only mildly surprised when Scout is able to find the right words to turn away a lynch mob that has come to kill Tom Robinson.

    Scout is also something of an outsider. A tomboy, she is still not completely accepted by her brother Jem and their friend Dill. We never hear of her having any close friends her own age, either boys or girls. And in contrast to Jem, who is constantly disappointed by the shortcomings of human nature, Scout seems to take bad news in stride. At one point, following the conviction of Tom Robinson, Atticus Finch expresses surprise that Jem, rather than Scout, seems most likely to become embittered over the injustice they have witnessed. Perhaps you will not be surprised. Scout's sense of humor and detachment seem to protect her from the disillusionments that her more vulnerable brother falls prey to.

    Most readers find that the portrayal of Scout is not only interesting but highly believable. Perhaps this is because we all recall times from our own childhood when we were smarter and more aware than adults gave us credit for being. Scout is able to put this awareness into words. Furthermore, Scout's sense of humor- and her unwitting mistakes and misunderstandings- save her from being a smart aleck. We don't feel that Scout is setting herself above the adults she criticizes.

    There are always a few readers, however, who conclude that the portrayal of Scout is less than convincing. They argue that many of Scout's opinions sound too adult and that she is always too ready to come up with the right words for the occasion.

    Before you make up your mind about Scout, you should remember that the voice we hear narrating the story is actually that of the grownup Scout- Jean Louise Finch- looking back on events that happened years earlier. Some of the opinions and ideas expressed in the novel are really those of the older Jean Louise. You should judge Scout by her actions and quoted words in the story, keeping these separate from the opinions of the narrator.

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    © Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
    Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
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