In To Kill A Mockingbird, how does gender impact Scout's narrative voice?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In To Kill A Mockingbird, an adult Scout narrates the story of her childhood and its influences. Although the story is therefore told from a feminine perspective, Scout consistently challenges gender stereotypes and asserts her non-feminine ideals. She is a tomboy and prefers her nickname of Scout to her real name, Jean Louise. She challenges and fights with boys when she feels she has been wronged and stands up for herself, which gets her into a fair amount of trouble. She maintains that she can "be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well" (chapter 9) as she can be in a dress, much to Aunt Alexandra's dismay. Maycomb County has certain expectations of its residents and is steeped in oppressive customs and social standards which Scout, and particularly Atticus, consistently ignore. Atticus teaches his children compassion and fairness regardless of social position or race. 

Scout's main role model is her father because her mother died when Scout was a baby. She reveals her awareness of gender in her descriptions and observations. At first, Atticus is rather uninspiring in Scout's view. She finds him to be "satisfactory" (ch 1) and would be more impressed if he drove a truck or worked in a drugstore (typically masculine jobs). The revelation that Atticus is a good shot with a rifle changes Scout and Jem's perception of their father. Miss Maudie is another influence on Scout and she too is an unconventional character. Aunt Alexandra and Miss Crawford, who represent the typical female characters in Maycomb County, do not impress Scout and she fights against any influence Aunt Alexandra may try to impose. Even Atticus realizes the futility of trying to make his children conform to Aunt Alexandra's social code. In terms of telling her story, gender is a source of conflict for Scout.

Harper Lee therefore invites readers to form opinions which defy the stereotypes but which still allow for social norms such as marriage (Scout intends to marry Dill) creating a character who is opinionated and aware that she is female but who refuses to be defined by it. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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