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The Use of a Child Narrator in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

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    Children perceive the world and experience it differently than adults. Looking through a child’s eyes can be both frightening and enriching. Not only can children promote the comprehension of difficult subjects, they can also display how a child learns and conforms to society. Children see the world as it is, without bias or prejudice. Children are fair and honest. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses a child narrator to demonstrate that. Lee’s purpose of using Scout as the narrator for the novel shows that she wants the reader to comprehend the reality of what is happening in the novel. Scout’s view makes a complex and confusing topic, such as racism, easier to understand. Lee uses Scout’s innocence as a way of showing this, but Scout’s naïveté also causes her to misinterpret events and misunderstand things. At the same time, her innocence additionally causes Scout to be more trustworthy than an adult because she sees events honestly and tells the reader what she sees. Harper Lee uses the point of view of a child to see the events of To Kill a Mockingbird in a different way and to portray the events from a child’s perspective without preconceptions.

    The novel is narrated by Scout as an adult, but she is looking back at the events and telling the story from when she is a six-year-old child. This allows her to see everything as an adult and understand more as a grown-up. Scout as an adult also acknowledges that she was very naive when she was a child. An example that shows this is when Atticus and Uncle Jack are talking in the living room. Scout eavesdrops on their conversations and listens to every word both of them say. In their conversation they talk about Tom Robinson’s trial and what is yet to come. Atticus says, “‘Scout’s got to learn to keep her head and learn soon, with what’s in store for her these next few months’”(Lee 99). After this chat between Atticus and Uncle Jack, Atticus calls Scout out for listening to them, and she later says, “But I never figured out how Atticus knew I was listening, and it was not until many years later that I realized that he wanted me to hear every word he said”(Lee 101). This shows how Atticus is trying to prepare Scout for the events that are going to happen soon, and Scout did not realize why Atticus allowed her to listen to their conversation until she was an adult. This reveals how Scout misunderstands things as a child and how when she looks back at this event as an adult, she can grasp the true reason as to why Atticus let her listen to his conversation. This allows her to be a reliable narrator. Scout shows the reader from this event that she tells the truth without completely recognizing what is going on. This proves that the reader can trust that Scout is giving an accurate description of what is happening in court during Tom’s trial and in her community.

    Through the truthful eyes of Scout and her narration, the reader can see the racism and prejudice that most of the people in Maycomb have. This impacts the reader’s experience because Scout tells the reader the entirety of the court case. Scout tells the reader what is being said in court and the small details of what happens in the courtroom. She informs the reader of almost every moment she sees and word for word of what is being said. An example that demonstrates this is, “Atticus got up grinning, but instead of walking to the witness stand, he opened his coat and hooked his thumbs in his vest, then he walked slowly across the room to the windows. He looked out, but strolled back to the witness stand. From long years of experience, I could tell he was trying to come to a decision about something”(Lee 206). Scout provides little details like this throughout the chapters in which the trial occurs. She contributes so many minor details that the reader feels like they are sitting in the courtroom watching the events of the case happen in front of them. Scout’s point of view is important because during the trial, there are many facts given that prove that Tom Robinson is innocent, yet the jury does not believe Tom’s side of the story because of his race. Atticus shows the jury and the reader that Tom has a crippled left arm, so he could not have caused the specific injuries that Mayella has said he has. Another piece of evidence that proves Tom did not do what he is accused of, is that Mayella’s version of the story changes throughout the trial. Furthermore, Atticus proves that Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father who is left-handed, may have caused the injuries because he had a motive for committing the crime. Tom had no apparent reason to commit the accused crime, but in the South it is common belief that a white woman’s word should always be considered the truth over what a black man has to say. The truth does not matter in the South, only race and social order. The white jury eventually convicts Tom of the raping and the beating of Mayella Ewell, even though there is so much proof that Tom did not do either of those. Scout witnesses this injustice due to racism and after the trial, begins to notice it in her community as well. There is even a racist remark in Scout’s own home. “Mrs. Merriweather nodded wisely…’I tell you there are some good but misguided people in this town. Good, but misguided. Folks in this town who think they’re doing right, I mean. Now far be it from me to say who, but some of ‘em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir ’em up. That’s all they did…’”(Lee 265-266). Mrs. Merriweather is trying to tell the group of ladies during their missionary tea time that Atticus defending Tom, while having good intentions, may have stirred up the African American community to start wanting more rights. Scout recognizes how big the divide is between the races and sees the superiority the white folks like to have over the black people of the community. Scout, being a young child, gradually understands what racism and prejudice are throughout the novel. The reader follows as Scout understands and sees the truth as to what happens in her community. The reader interprets the information that innocent Scout presents and sees it for what it actually is.

    Compared to an adult’s bias and prejudice beliefs, Scout’s young eyes do not allow her to comprehend races and color. It only allows her to see the truth and how her community has sent an innocent man to prison just because of his race, which demonstrates racial injustice. The child perspective of Scout allows for the reader to understand she has no prejudice. She is simply a child who watches racism occur in her community and tells the reader what she sees. She has no reason to lie, so the reader can trust that her narration is dependable. Scout also makes a difficult topic, like racism, easy to understand. The true meaning of racism is a very difficult subject to put into words, but Lee has not only done that, but she has also demonstrated to the reader how evil racism is. Lee uses Scout’s innocence to describe to the reader what racism is and by doing so, the reader comes up with their own interpretation of how horrible racism is. She uses the Scout’s eyes to shape what the reader believes. Using Scout’s young point of view allows Harper Lee to describe the events that take place in To Kill a Mockingbird through a child’s innocence.

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    The Use of a Child Narrator in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. (2021, Dec 16). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-use-of-a-child-narrator-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

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