How does Scout's attitude toward superstition change over the course of the story?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The older Scout gets in the Harper Lee novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the less she mentions her beliefs in superstition. But, neither Jem nor Scout can ever be accused of possessing the knowledge of or belief in the occult as, say, Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. Even as a youngster, Scout is much too intelligent to put much faith in such supernatural poppycock.

She claims to be "lucky to have Dill," calling him a "pocket Merlin" because of his "eccentric plans, strange longings and quaint fancies." Boo Radley is, of course, a source of ghoulish fantasies. Jem and Scout always pass the Radley Place "runnin'," and the children constantly issue dares to one another that involve getting closer to the mysterious neighbor inside. When they discover the shiny, Indian Head pennies in the knothole, Scout decides that "finders were keepers," and Jem claims they had "real strong magic." Jem later teaches Scout about "Hot Steams"--spirits "who can't get to heaven." But even at her early age, Scout doesn't believe much of Jem's fantastic tales, telling Dill that "Calpurnia says that's nigger-talk."

Once Jem and Scout learn that the presents in the knothole, the mended pants and the blanket (given to Scout on the night of Miss Maudie's house fire) come from Boo, they come to realize that he is not a spirit of the night but a caring human being who oddly prefers the sanctuary of his home. Boo seems to be the root of their superstitions, and they soon disappear when Boo's own humanity emerges. By the end of the novel, Scout's fears about Boo have disappeared.

    We laughed. Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs, had vanished with our years as mist with sunrise. "What was that old thing," Jem said. "Angel bright, life-in-death; get off the road, don't suck my breath."
    "Cut it out now," I said. We were in front of the Radley Place.

Well, almost disappeared.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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