What are some significant events in Scout's life that contribute to her development as a character?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Scout is already wise beyond her years, but she continues to grow through a series of events that are detailed in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Although she doesn't remember her mother, Scout learns to thrive without a maternal influence that most children receive. The discovery of Dill in the collard patch marks the beginning of a long friendship--and an early engagement. Dill's persistent attempts to catch a glimpse of Boo Radley draws Scout into the mix, and she eventually learns to regret the annoyance she must causes her reclusive neighbor.

I sometimes felt a twinge of remorse... at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment to Arthur Radley.

Scout learns that teachers are not perfect, especially Miss Caroline.

Had her conduct been more friendly toward me, I would have felt sorry for her. She was a pretty little thing.

Atticus' defense of Tom Robinson teaches Scout to use her fists as well as to show restraint.

My fists were clenched, and I was ready to let fly... I was far too old and too big for such childish things, and the sooner I learned to hold in, the better off everybody would be. I soon forgot.

Scout finally realizes that her humble father had hidden talents after all.

    Miss Maudie grinned wickedly. "Well, now Miss Jean Louise," she said, "still think your father can't do anything? Still ashamed of him?
    "Nome," I said meekly.
    "Forgot to tell you the other day that... Atticus Finch was the deadest shot in Maycomb County in his time."
    "Dead shot..." echoed Jem.
    "...Looks like he'd be proud of it," I said.
    "People in their right minds never take pride in their talents," said Miss Maudie.

She discovers that Atticus is respected by people of all types, including Dolphus Raymond and Maycomb's black townspeople.

    I looked around. They were standing. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes' voice was as distant as Judge Taylor's.
    "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. You father's passin'."

Tom's conviction also teaches her that life isn't always fair. At the missionary circle, she finds that "ladies" don't always practice what they preach. She discovers that hateful men like Bob Ewell will do just about anything to even a score. And she finally sees Boo Radley--not as a shadowy fantasy, but as a real, live hero.

"... when they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things... Atticus, he was real nice...
    "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Scout's development is due to her inquisitive innocence and conversations with other characters. One event that stands out is the night Atticus guards the courthouse and she intervenes when the mob starts to advance. This might be the most significant event in the novel, for Scout: aside from those (i.e. Mr. Underwood) who see the justice and ethical imperative of Atticus' defense of Tom Robinson, the night Scout intervenes and convinces Mr. Cunningham to disperse the angry mob is the only event where the 'public' listens to reason: and this, from an eight-year old girl.

Subsequently, she vows revenge on Walter Cunningham when she gets to school. Atticus tells her not to touch him and to practice restraint when anyone else mocks her father. Although Atticus' instruction to "never kill a mockingbird" directly applies to Boo Radley and Tom Robinson, laying off Walter is not just about restraint: Walter is a child: impressionable and basically brainwashed by conventional ignorance of his family and the town. So, in a way, Walter is not completely at fault.

Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to church where she learns that different cultures speak/sing differently, the lack of literacy (lack of opportunity for education) and that Cal led a double life (see W.E.B. DuBois, segregation, etc.) In addition to learning that cultural differences are not inherent (as she aptly says, "folks are just folks"), she learns that Cal (and maybe assumes this about others) has an existence outside her home.

Other events of significance are: witnessing the trial, Tom's death, and walking Boo Radley home. This is when she literally sees the street from a new perspective: she'd never been on Radley's porch. Like her visit to Cal's church (and request to visit her at home), this is another event when Scout sees things from someone else's perspective. This comes easier to her than most children because she is so curious and open-minded. Part of this is just her: she's a tomboy, folks is just folks, etc. But another part is how honestly Atticus answers her and how Miss Maudie never talks down to her. These two characters encourage Scout to do what comes natural to her: thinking for herself and seeing things from different perspectives.

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alepoynton | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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