In the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, the author Harper Lee presents the main characters in such a way that we can see what they learn. In this essay I will concentrate on the characters of Scout, Dill and Jem and show how they are presented. The character of Scout makes up the narration, therefore we learn about the people and society from this young girl’s view. Usually, this would mean that there would be a bias view on issues, but Harper Lee dealt with this very well. As Scout is a young girl, she has not yet been affected by the prejudice in the Maycomb society.Order now
The child innocence of this character makes the reader see the novel in complete veracity. Her childhood innocence is displayed when she ‘sweet-talked’ Mr. Cunningham, creating guilt and sympathy. At the start of the novel, we can see the childish behaviour in her as she persistently disturbs the Radley Place. We know that she has matured towards the end of the novel as Scout herself says ‘the Radley place had ceased to terrify me’. This indicates not only her growing up, but also her eyes being opened to new ideas. This honesty has also made characters put their trust in her, as well as the reader.
Dolphus Raymond does this when he tells them he only drinks ‘plain Coca-Cola’. From this masquerade, we learn a lot about the society and from this trust we then know the way people act. The incident that I feel most shows this maturity is when she is listening to the ladies talking. Scout had said that ‘if Aunty could act a lady at a time like this, so could I’. Scout and Aunt Alexandra had acted with dignity by not saying about the death of Tom Robinson. This not only shows maturity, but also showed that they were above everybody else in the room.
It is quite a contrast from her hotheaded attitude towards Walter Cunningham earlier in the novel. This development of womanhood takes place gradually throughout the novel as she spends more time with the feminine character of Aunt Alexandra. The intelligence of Scout also aids us in our understanding of events. This intelligence is not only indicated by the fact that she could read ‘ever since she was born’ but also by her comprehension of the court case. Scout was very knowledgeable about the case and she was able to interpret what she had heard.
When Mayella was talking, she worked out that ‘white people wouldn’t have anything to do with her’. She had interpreted this for herself and Scout had the ability to answer most questions asked by Jem and Dill about the case without hesitation. From this we learn a very honest view of what is going on, another example of Lee’s wonderful set-up of the novel. Harper Lee could have presented the character of Scout in a less intelligent way, but by making her intellectual it updates the reader making the novel more interesting to read.
Scout is also a very inquisitive young person, because of this Harper Lee is able to introduce a lot of dialogue to create effects. This way, not only do we know about Scout’s views on things, but also other people’s views on issues. Once again Scout learns about society as people query her on what she acknowledges as right and wrong. For example, by Scout asking Dolphus Raymond questions, we learn that he does not really drink. Also by Scout listening to the lady’s conversation, we learn about the hypocritical society but Scout has not yet realised this.
Although she has matured, she is still curious and this is indicated by her inquisitive approach to the Hitler case. We see the society through her eyes and realise the hypocritical county of Maycomb. The character of Dill is presented as more of an ‘outsider’ in the novel. He is from a different area and because of this we have a contrast in beliefs. Like Scout he is immature at the start of the novel, after all he gave them ‘the idea of making Boo Radley come out’. However, we see that he has dependence when he runs away. He was able to travel many miles to meet Jem and Scout and I would interpret this as maturity.
Dill has also yet to be affected by the prejudice in societies. I think that the main thing that Dill learnt throughout the novel is to tell the truth. The example that I feel shows this the clearest is when he is talking about his father. When he writes he says that his new father was very kind and that ‘they planned to build a fishing boat’. It was not long later when he admitted that ‘they just weren’t interested in me’. Dill had grown up and realised that telling the truth is the more mature thing to do. Dill also learns a great deal from Dolphus Raymond.
All of the children learn about the society when he has to use drinking as a fai?? ade to give society a reason for his allegedly incorrect lifestyle. However, it is Dill that is the most horrified to realise the true brutality of this slow and vicious society. From this point onwards he did not cry out after a miscarriage of rights had taken place. Before this incident he had always complained about any actions that had happened, for example, he said that Mr. Gilmer was ‘sick, plain sick’. We know that Dill was very sensitive about this racist society as he said strongly that ‘it ain’t right’.
He may say this because he is young and has not been affected by prejudice, or, that his association with the Finches has kept this social behaviour of the Maycomb society at bay. Personally, I think the latter has been purposely integrated into the novel and by making Dill co-exist with the Finches, we see the disgust in him and realise that Maycomb has took this segregation to an extreme. In the character of Dill we have another honest character who is an outsider to Maycomb, much like the reader. Scout’s older brother Jem provides a very nice contrast to his sister.
Jem has ‘a natural tranquil disposition and a slow fuse’ according to Scout. This is very different to his sister who will explode in fury in a very short time. This becomes clear at the incident which I feel most affects Jem. The only time we see Jem explode in fury is when he ‘cut the tops off every camellia bush Mrs. Dubose owned’. The reason he did this is because Mrs. Dubose had called his father ‘trash’, an indication of his love for his father. Before the incident with Mrs. Dubose, Jem had been very critical that ‘everybody in town’s father was playing, it seemed, except Atticus’.
His father was not living up to the brave, battling and courageous elder that he would have liked. After the passing away of Mrs. Dubose, Jem had learnt from Atticus that ‘courage is not a man with a gun in his hand’. From this point onwards Jem has psychologically referred to this and I am led to believe that this is responsible for the developing relationship of Jem and his father. Jem learnt that Atticus was brave to commit an unimaginable crime in this society- defend a black against the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy.
Atticus is a role model for Jem and he soon develops his own sets of morals, very much like his father’s. We see this when Jem refuses to ‘go home’ as he persistently stated that he ‘ain’t moving’. This is another example that Harper Lee has interjected characters from which these three characters have learnt. Like Scout, I believe that living with Calpurnia has prevented him from realising the trueness of the hypocritical society. Atticus treats Calpurnia with respect, Jem therefore assumes that this is normal and so treats all negroes with the same amount of respect. We know that he does not realise the true ferociousness of the society.
The indication of this from which I make this assumption on is on his optimism that Tom Robinson will be found innocent. After listening to the witnesses at the court case, he clearly says ‘we’ve won it’. I believe that by living with Calpurnia and his visits to her church have blinded him from the true reality of the racist society. Similar to Dill he notifies the inequity of the decision has he tells Atticus that ‘it ain’t right’. The comment that really sums up all of the characters innocence is when Atticus states that ‘so far nothing in your life has interfered with your reasoning process’.
Atticus is saying that because they are young, the injustices of society have not affected them. Due to this the reader is able to trust the characters of Jem, Dill and in particular Scout to get very clear images of people and society. A fantastic writing technique. Scout has learnt to be dignified, Dill to tell the truth and Jem to stand by his morals. These three characters have been injected into the novel so not only they learn, but so does the reader, creating interest and making the novel more enjoyable to read.