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. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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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.

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