In To Kill  a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, who tells the story and what impact does it have?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has an interesting narrator in ihe adult Scout Finch whose real name is Jean Louise. To the adult narrator, the story serves as a memoir of three years of her childhood. The narration of the story begins when Scout is six and her brother Jem is ten.  Using this flashback approach to the story, Scout recalls a set of important years in her and her brother’s childhoods.

The story begins with Scout giving the reader insight into the ending of the book although the information’s meaning does not become clear until the story’s end. With Scout as the narrator, the reader must keep in mind that everything is seen from her point of view.

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow…When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident.  I maintain that the Ewells started it, but Jem…said it started long before that. 

The reader must also remember that the narrator is looking back at the story from a distance and can only tell what she recollects.  Despite her intelligence, Scout’s narration comes from a child’s view of the events since the story covers Scout’s life from the ages of six to nine.

This story’s narration specifies a child’s point of view looking back at some harsh adult events.  Through her eyes, the story is told objectively.  Scout’s innocence allows the writer to make racial comments and regard different kinds of people honestly and without any biaThe child Scout does not cover up any of the callous things that are said or done. In addition, the reader can look at the events with the knowledge that the child does not understand the peculiarities and prejudices of the adults.

One particular incident occurs when the lynch mob comes after Tom Robinson. Scout’s childish view point saves his life and possibly her father’s because she does not realize the significance of the incident.

“Hey, Mr. Cunningham.”

The man did not hear me, it seemed.

Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch.  You brought us some hickory nuts one time, remember?  I go to school with Walter.  He’s your boy, ain’t he?

 Mr. Cunningham was moved to a faint nod.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

I looked around and up at Mr. Cunningham.

“I’ll tell him you said hey, little lady,” he said.

Mr. Cunningham turned to all of the other men and told them they needed to go home. The old adage comes to mind: A little child shall lead them.

Scout as the narrator serves as the conscience of the story.  Her questions and observations connect and move the story forward.  She asks difficult questions; and, despite her innocence, the  answers remain truthful and objective.

What the reader must remember is that it is the adult Scout who is really telling the story. From this vantage point, Scout knows that her father was a great man who also was a remarkable father. However, humorously, the child narrator believes that her father did not do anything and could do less. The two positions---adult and child---cleverly show the difference between the child who learns many valuable lessons during the time of the story and the adult Jean Louise who understands the devastation of the events of the same time.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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