Guide to Literary Terms

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How does character develop theme?

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Characters develop theme in a variety of ways:

Sometimes, characters help develop a theme because of their unique perspectives. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch tells the story of Tom Robinson's trial and its horrific outcome from the perspective of childhood innocence. She narrates the racism of Maycomb without a judging eye, leaving that for the reader to infer based on her comments. Because of her perspective, it is even more clear that Tom is innocent—it is clear enough for a young child to understand. This makes the guilty verdict even more unbelievable and highlights the racism of her pre-Civil Rights Southern town even further. Scout's perspective underlines the theme that racism can destroy innocent people.

At other times, characters help develop the theme because of the specific historical context they represent. In the short story The Story of an Hour , Louise Mallard lives in a time when women didn't have many options. She has remained loyal to her husband for many years,...

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