How Does Harper Lee Present Her Ideas About Childhood in the Novel ‘to Kill a Mockingbird’? Essay
Harper Lee presents her ideas about childhood through the eyes of six year old, Scout – Jean Louise Finch. The book is written from a child’s point of view on their surroundings, but an adult writes it from a child’s imagination and thoughts. Harper Lee cleverly uses a child’s perspective to portray events that happen within the story, because it is written by a mere child there are no judgmental opinions. As a result, showing us as readers that childhood is an essential part of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.
Through the perspective of Scout, we understand how Maycomb as a town is very unexciting.
The Finch children first experience friendship when they meet Dill – Charles Baker Harris. “‘I’m Charles Baker Harris. ‘ he said. ‘I can read. ‘” Dill tries to impress Scout and Jem by saying that he could read. Reading at a young age was uncommon for children in Maycomb at that time, but Jem and Scout could both read as they had been taught.
There is a small quarrel between Jem and Dill as they make fun of each others names, which makes Jem suddenly dislike him. Nevertheless Dill tells them about Dracula, which makes the children accept him. This introduction of a new friend shows friendship as well as childhood in the novel.
Maycomb has very few children which is why the children resort to using their imaginations. Boo Radley is a person whom they constantly pester and create stories about. “Stop tormenting that man” Atticus says this to the children; the children therefore find it intriguing as why Atticus, the man who socializes with everyone, refuses them to interact with Boo. Boo Radley is forbidden to them therefore making their imaginations run wild. Using their imaginations they create plays about Boo Radley and his life, which are shown through a child’s perspective and make a reader relate to it.
Like every child growing up Scout attends school for the first time. The relationship between Jem and Scout at school represents that of any brother and sister: “Jem was careful … – … tag along with him. ” (17) Being at school Jem doesn’t want Scout to be tagging alongside him, he may find it embarassing as any child would. The fact that a brother and sister have to make sure they dont embarass eachother in school is what still happens now. In ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ we are shown the innocence and gullibility of Scout. “You’re shamin’ … -… hasn’t got a quarter at home. (24)
Without actually realising that Walter Cunningham is poor she says this as if it was something obvious. Miss Caroline on the other hand doesn’t know Maycomb, so she assumes Scout was being cheeky. Therefore giving her “half a dozen quick little pats” which at first confuse Scout. Harper Lee uses this incident to show the innocence of Scout as she is unaware of what she is being whipped for. At the beginning of Chapter 8, Scout is told by Mr Avery that: “When children disobeyed … – … the seasons changed. ” Scout, whom is naive, believes this and later when its snowing thinks the world is ending.
Harper Lee uses this to show that children will believe anything an adult says, as they believe that they are unbiased. They also believe that Boo Radley is dangerous; this is because they have listened to adults gossiping and making stories up. However, at the end of the novel Boo saves them, therefore making Jem and Scout realize that he isn’t dangerous at all. This gives us the idea that because of the Maycomb rumours the children were instantly intrigues by Boo Radley and therefore thought he was a monster who ate cats. Harper Lee has created Boo to reveal that children are gullible and innocent, so they believe anything.
The writer Harper Lee, also considers reminding the reader that Scout is not a child anymore but an adult. This is shown in the beginning of Chapter 11 where she reminds the reader that she’s older now by saying “When we were small… ” This shows that Harper Lee wants the reader to understand that she is still presenting childhood. But when there is a conversation, which involved one of the children, the language switches to informal slang and words that sound as they are spelt. “You gonna give me a chance to tell you? I don’t mean to sass you, I’m just trying to tell you. ” This depicts that Scout is being told off by Uncle Jack.