Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Jean Louise “Scout” Finch
Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, a five-year-old girl when the story begins. She is smart and precocious, having learned to read at an early age by studying her father’s law books. A hothead, more willing to fight than to think, she is often in trouble. She serves as a willing accomplice in her older brother’s escapades. It is in her clear, honest voice that the story is told.
Jeremy “Jem” Atticus Finch
Jeremy “Jem” Atticus Finch, Scout’s brother, nine years old when the novel begins. He is thoughtful, with a slower fuse than Scout, and often acts as interpreter to his sister of the world’s confusing contradictions and vagaries. He intends to be a lawyer like his father when he grows up.
Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem’s father, a lawyer in Maycomb, Alabama. A widower, almost fifty years old, Atticus responds to the challenge of rearing two small children by treating them as equals, with dignity and honesty. Atticus is a rare man, not only because he is a keen judge of human nature but also because he is able to forgive his fellow citizens their faults. When he defends a black man charged with raping a white woman, he does so knowing full well the wrath he will draw from the community. Standing up to the town’s anger and ridicule requires both physical and moral courage, and Atticus shows that he has both.
(The entire section is 737 words.)
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Characters in Context
The central characters of To Kill a Mockingbird are Jean Louise (Scout), Jeremy Atticus (Jem), and Atticus Finch. Scout, precocious and outspoken, possesses a quick mind and a hot temper; her persistent desire to learn about and participate in the world around her frequently gets her into trouble at home and at school. When Walter Cunningham, a poor classmate of Scout's, is invited to lunch at the Finches', Scout watches in horror as Walter, unaccustomed to the formality of the Finches' noon-time meal, drowns his food in maple syrup. Without realizing her rudeness, Scout asks Walter what the "sam hill" he thinks he is doing; she receives a stern lecture from Calpumia on the meaning of hospitality and good manners. Later, when her spoiled cousin Francis taunts her by criticizing Atticus, Scout—who has been trying to curb her combative tendencies—punches Francis in the mouth and is promptly punished. At school, when Scout tries to be helpful and educate Miss Caroline, her nervous, inexperienced first-grade teacher, about Maycomb County protocol, Miss Caroline disciplines her for impudence. Still, Scout remains a spunky, inquisitive, and loyal child whose love for her father and brother is evident through- out the story; as the novel progresses, she develops the sensitivity and self-control that characterize the voice of the adult Scout who narrates the story.
Both Atticus and Jem shape Scout's development. Every night before she goes to bed, Scout reads...
(The entire section is 1507 words.)
See Alexandra Finch Hancock.
Miss Maudie Atkinson
Maudie Atkinson is a strong, supportive woman who lives across the street from the Finches. A forthright speaker, she never condescends to Jem and Scout, but speaks to them as equals. It is Miss Maudie who affirms that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, since "they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us." A respected community member who often teasingly reproaches the children, Miss Maudie nevertheless has a impish streak: she likes to quote scripture back to conservative religious folk who frown on her brightly colored garden. Miss Maudie provides another example of bravery to the children when her home burns down. Instead of lamenting her fate, she tells Jem she looks forward to rebuilding a smaller house which will have more room for her flowers.
A good-natured if somewhat coarse neighbor of the Finches who helps fight the fire at Miss Maudie's house at risk to his own Life.
One of several strong female figures in the lives of the Finch children, Calpurnia is the family's black housekeeper. She has helped to raise Jem and Scout since their mother's death four years ago. Like Atticus, Calpurnia is a strict but loving teacher, particularly in regard to Scout, whose enthusiasm sometimes makes her thoughtless. On Scout's first day of school, for...
(The entire section is 2536 words.)
To Kill a Mockingbird merges a skillful plot, depicting thought-provoking themes and events, with an equally skillful rendering of character. Lee creates the novel’s cast using a range of techniques – from the use of stereotypical types to the in-depth layering of many-faceted characters. One of the book’s particular strengths is the presence of such a number of finely-drawn characters. The reader is able to witness the motivations and growth of more than just the central protagonist.
The most visible character in the book is Scout (Jean-Louise) Finch, the first-person narrator. Although only six years old at the time of the events being recounted, readers come to know two Scouts – the young Scout who witnesses and is involved in the events and the adult Scout who is actually looking back at these events.
Scout is an interesting choice for the narrator. She is the youngest character in the book and could be regarded as an unreliable narrator if not for her adult interjections. Scout manages to speak to the readers both of her experiences and attitudes at the time of the events and of her adult insights into the same events. Readers are fortunate enough to become acquainted with the woman who was shaped by the events and people depicted in the book.
The young Scout is a bright and curious child. She has taught herself to read, an indication of her intelligence, and is curious about many...
(The entire section is 1698 words.)