What are the unusual aspects in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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

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Consider these three aspects of the novel; they are not in themselves unique in literature, but Harper Lee's mastery of them makes her novel more than memorable. It stands as a genuine work of art.

Point of View: The novel employs the retrospective point of view with Scout as narrator. Throughout the story, we witness events as Scout experienced them, but they are interpreted for us in the mature voice of the same child who has grown up. When the novel was first published, developing two conflicting voices was criticized by reviewers, but this point of view is now recognized as one of the novel's main strengths. Scout the child takes us into the secret, wonderful, and frequently confusing world of childhood in fresh and compelling ways; it becomes a parallel universe to daily adult life in Maycomb. Scout's mature view, however, provides dramatic irony throughout the novel, none more powerful or effective than the scene at the jail when Atticus faces the lynch mob.

Minor Characters: The eNotes Study Guide over the novel lists more than thirty characters, the great majority of them being citizens of Maycomb who play a very limited role, if any role at all, in the novel's two story lines: Tom's Robinson's trial and Boo Radley's life. However, even the most minor of these characters is captured vividly and contributes to our understanding of the town and, in a more significant way, of humanity itself in its various permutations. 

The Emotional Landscape: The novel seems to encompass all human experience, in one way or another, and portrays human nature in its degradation as well as its glory. For every act of cowardice, there is one of courage. For each hateful heart, Lee shows us one compassion. Some characters are wise and profound; some are unbelievably shallow and silly. All are human, some terribly flawed. Drama, pain, injustice, and tears are found in the novel, but we also find hilarious characters, scenes, and dialog that also contain truth. 

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