The Effect of Scout Finch’s naivete in To Kill A Mockingbird Essay
In the words of William Shakespeare, “The silence often of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails.”(Shakespeare SearchQuotes). In Harper Lee’s unforgettable novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the innocence of children is the key to communicating several significant aspects of the story. The novel is narrated by Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch, who relays the story of a series of events involving social issues that take place in the quiet town of Maycomb County during her childhood in the 1930’s. Harper Lee establishes a distinct narrative voice for Scout through the use of her adult narration reflecting upon childhood memories in the limited perspective, which communicates the malevolence of other characters present in Maycomb County and simplifies complex issues through the naïveté of childhood observation.
Through Scout’s innocent and naïve outlook upon the world around her, she is slowly exposed to the evil that is present in Maycomb County. Scout’s innocence magnifies the malevolence of several others around her in contrast to her purity.
An example of this innocence is exemplified when Scout narrates her understanding of the lynch mob confrontation, saying, “I looked around the crowd, it was a summer’s night, but the men were dressed, most of them, in overalls and denim shirts buttoned up to the collars. I thought they must be cold-natured as their sleeves were unrolled and buttoned at the cuffs…I sought once more for a familiar face, and at the center of the semi-circle I found one. ‘Hey, Mr. Cunningham.’”(Lee 204). Scout is unable to understand why the men have crowded around, and casually approaches Mr. Cunningham with light conversation, contradicting the initial mood of the mob. She misinterprets the situation and underestimates the violent capabilities of the men overcome with racist ideologies, thus demonstrating the inherent evil present in Maycomb. Bob Ewell is another example of how Scout’s innocent outlook exposes her to evil.
An example of this evil is displayed when Stephanie Crawford explains to the children that, “…Mr. Ewell approached him [Atticus], cursed him, spat on him, and threatened to kill him.” (Lee 291). Scout and Jem’s adamant concern for Atticus’ safety communicates to the reader that Bob Ewell is a dangerous man and has malicious intentions. Scout’s innocent concern proves the malice in Bob’s character, and as a child; her mind is pure, which enables her to see people for whom-* they really are, proving that Bob Ewell personifies evil. As the narration in To Kill a Mockingbird is from a child’s perspective, the reader is offered a simple interpretation on the true impact of the racial tension in the southern states in this time period. Scout becomes aware of the injustice present in Maycomb County, which allows her to develop opinions and, over the course of the novel, understand the injustice that unfolds before her.
As a child, she is innocent and her understanding of the world is limited, which simplifies the central messages that are being introduced to her and consequently clarifies these issues for the reader. Issues that are prevalent throughout the novel are that of racial inequality and the discrepancy between social classes in Maycomb County. Racial inequality is an issue that has a personal impact on Scouts childhood experiences due to the fact that her father, Atticus Finch is the defense attorney for a black man convicted of raping a white woman. Overtime, Scout gradually begins to understand the severity of the injustice surrounding her, because she not only witnesses the injustice towards Tom Robinson, when convicted of a crime he did not commit, but personally becomes a victim of racist, snide comments about her father being a “nigger lover”. Confused, she questions her father on the meaning of this insult, to which Atticus replies, “Nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.” (Lee 144).
Scout’s inability to comprehend the logic behind this name-calling clarifies to the reader, through Atticus’ lesson, the severity of the racial segregation present around Scout and her naïveté to this segregation. Another issue that Scout witnesses throughout the novel is that of the discrepancy between socio-economic classes of those in Maycomb County, creating another form of segregation. The classes are divided by the amount of money they possess, which is a concept that Scout failed to grasp. Scout’s naïve perception about the segregation of classes is proven when she says, “‘But I want to play with Walter, Aunty, why can’t I?’ She took off her glasses and stared at me. ‘I’ll tell you why,’ she said. ‘Because- he – is – trash, that’s why you can’t play with him’” (Lee 257). Scout’s naïve misunderstanding of Aunt Alexandra’s opinions is what communicates to the reader of the issue that is taking place.
Since Scout, as a child, has a very clear idea of right from wrong and is not tainted by preconceptions and prejudice, we are able to see the injustice in Aunt Alexandra’s argument. The Finches and Walters’s family, the Cunninghams, are both white families; however, Aunt Alexandra considers them to be of lower class due to their financial situation. Scout seems to come to terms and finally understand the issues she is forced to face as well as develop her own opinions on the matter, when she is speaking to Jem and says. “Naw, Jem I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” (Lee 304). Consequently, it is evident that through the narration Harper Lee provides in To Kill a Mockingbird, the innocence and naïveté of Scout Finch enables several issues and character traits of those in Maycomb County to be communicated effectively. The limited perspective of narration clarifies the malevolence of other characters, and simplifies complex issues that are presented throughout the novel as a consequence of childhood naïveté. As a result of how Scout’s innocence causes her to become aware of several issues at an unbelievably young age, she matures as a character and gradually morphs into the Scout Finch that will eventually narrate this story.
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