Does To Kill a Mockingbird express a pessimistic or optimistic view of life?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly Scout's narration in To Kill a Mockingbird offers many negative glimpses into the lives of the people of Maycomb, but the overall tone of the novel is overwhelmingly optimistic. Harper Lee injects the story with a humorous undercurrent through the innocent eyes of Scout, and despite the many serious and even tragic events that unfold, the reader is left with hopeful expectations for the future.

Scout and Jem are thrust into the adult world at an early age, but we know that their loss of innocence has not destroyed their love of life. Scout fondly retells the early accounts of her life, seemingly learning from each of her encounters. The final chapter details her new outlook of the world around her.

    Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
    ... As I made my way home, I suddenly felt very old... I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn't much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

The two Finch children have seen and learned plenty during the past few years. They have witnessed the evils of the adult world--death, racism, cruelty, violence--and they are ready to tackle what comes next.

"Atticus, I wasn't scared... Jem wasn't scared. Asked him and he said he wasn't. Besides, nothin's real scary except in books.

mkcapen1 | Student

The book "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a positive view of life.  There are some terrible events in the book such as Tom Robinson being charged with rape of a white girl and then getting convicted when he was innocent of the crime.  However, the story paints a picture of the comforts of small town life in Maycomb where Sundays are visiting days, everyone knows each other, and summer nights are spent on porches watching the fireflies.  The children, Scout and Jem, have a father, Atticus, who is a lawyer.  He is a good and just man.  He is also courageous with his own quiet demeanor.  He installs in his children goodness and righteousness.  The story demonstrates how people change.  Even with all the bad things going on around them good people provide support for the Finch family.  The children have fun paying with their friend, Dill.  They also mature through their experiences.  They have good hearts and look after people.  The influence of Calpurnia may not always seem good to Scout, but she also helps to guide and shape the children.  She takes them to the black church in her community and shares the joy of her community with them.

The overall message in the story is positive as the children and others learning a lesson from Tom's death as it serves to later get Heck Tate to forgo filing changes against Boo Radley for stabbing Mr. Ewell.  One Mocking bird is saved, Boo.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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