Is the narrator of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird an adult or child based on Chapter 1?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, we can tell by reading the very first sentence of the second paragraph that the narrator Scout, as she relays the story, is much older than her character in the story.

The greatest clue is found in the opening phrase "when enough years had gone by ..." This phrase alone tells us that many years have passed since the conclusion of the story in the novel. However, while that phrase tells us she is older, it doesn't give us any clue as to how much older.

We get a clue as to how much older in the opening phrase of the independent clause: "..., we sometimes discussed the event." Children, even young teenagers, don't really "discuss" things; they instead merely talk about things or even fight about things. Only adults really "discuss" things. A final clue that the narrator is an adult can be found in her sentence describing the debate she and Jem have concerning the events that led up to Jem's broken arm; the narrator Scout ends with the statement that Jem argues the story "started long before that." The adverb long indicates that the events of the story happened a long time ago in the past, which indicates the narrator is no longer a child but rather an adult.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As was mentioned in the previous post, the narrator of the story is the adult Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. Jean Louise tells the story of how her older brother, Jem, broke his arm when he was nearly thirteen years old. She recalls the incidents leading up to Jem's injury in retrospect and recounts her childhood as an adult. In the opening chapter of the novel, Jean Louise writes,

When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading up to his accident (Lee 5).

This comment gives the reader insight into the fact that the narrator is much older than she is depicted throughout the story. In addition to Jean Louise's opening statements, the story incorporates erudite diction. Scout uses words like "apoplectic" and "philippic" to describe various situations and people. These words would not have been used by a child and indicate that an adult is retelling the story. Another clue that proves an adult Jean Louise is telling the story takes place at the end of Chapter 9. Jean Louise says,

But I never figured out how Atticus knew I was listening, and it was not until many years later that I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said (Lee 56). 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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