What are some techniques to discuss in an essay on To Kill a Mockingbird in relation to the theme "Into the World"?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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To Kill a Mockingbird is a great novel to examine in terms of this particular theme. Throughout the narrative, Jem and Scout move from the security of home into the wider world of their community and life in general; they move from the innocence and security of childhood into the world of adult realities, finding many of them shocking and painful. Harper Lee uses a main plot (Tom Robinson's trial) and a subplot (the Boo Radley story) to move Jem and Scout along in these journeys. Within this structure she incorporates many individual episodes in Jem's and Scout's lives that further their movement toward adult experience and understanding.

One way to develop an essay would be to examine the plot, subplot, and unrelated incidents to show how they move Jem and Scout into the world. Their experiences as they endure Tom Robinson's trial shock their innocence and teach them some ugly realities; these same experiences, however, through the guidance of Atticus, teach them about courage and justice. Their experiences with Boo Radley draw them from childish preconceptions and help them understand and respect the complexity of others' struggles. Various episodes throughout the novel, such as these, are very significant in moving Jem and Scout into the world:

  • Atticus's shooting the rabid dog
  • Jem's reading to Mrs. Dubose
  • The encounter with Dolphus Raymond
  • Aunt Alexandra's church circle meeting
  • The visit to Calpurnia's church
  • The discussion of Hitler and the Jews

As the novel ends, Jem and Scout's awareness and understanding of the world beyond their front yard is much greater, and they have taken important steps in learning how to live in it with courage and decency.


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