Please provide an example of the "loss of innocence" in chapters 13 and 14 of To Kill a Mockingbird.

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aunt Alexandra comes to stay with her brother's family in chapter 13, but it's as if Atticus has remarried and the kids get a step-mother. She comes in with the guns of change blazing. She wants to teach the kids about their heritage, how they should act more like a gentleman and a lady, and the facts of life. As Atticus takes a moment with the kids to explain what Alexandra wants him to say, he gets frustrated and barks at Scout. She then starts to cry because she feels like her father has been taken away from her. He's speaking to them differently, he's discussing subjects he doesn't care for, and it seems as if he's getting more frustrated, lately. Scout asks, "Atticus, is all this behavin' an' stuff gonna make things different?" (134).

Fortunately, he tells her to forget what he's said and not to worry. The loss of innocence in this scene is Scout being confronted with the aspect of change. She doesn't feel safe, in a way, because everything she's known of her life is changing. She's being told not to wear pants, to learn her heritage, and be a lady, etc. And whenever a child is forced to face behaving more like an adult, it means he or she must say good-bye to their childhood--which is losing innocence. All of a sudden Scout needs to worry about "behavin'" correctly, acting responsibly, and upholding the family name; and that puts unneeded stress on a little girl.

Atticus puts Aunt Alexandra on a leash for the time being, but Jem seems to be acting more grown up and leaving his childhood (or innocence) behind. (Chapter 14 does show Scout asking Atticus about the definition of rape, but she doesn't understand his answer, so this is not a moment where she loses her innocence. Losing innocence in this sense is like putting off childhood as more experience and understanding of the world around the child moves them out of childhood.) For this chapter, it's Jem who shows he's maturing and leaving childhood behind. First, he tries to discipline Scout by saying that he will spank her if she keeps aggravating Aunt Alexandra. 

After Atticus breaks up a fight between Jem and Scout, they find Dill underneath her bed having run away from his home in Meridian. Scout tries to keeps Dill a secret by sneaking him some cornbread and milk. She never even thinks of telling Atticus about Dill, but Jem does. After he allows Dill to explain how he got to Maycomb, Jem says he has to tell Atticus. He even tells Dill that he shouldn't worry people by running away. Scout and Dill's reaction to Jem's responsible behavior is profound.

"Dill's eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor. Then he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall. 'Atticus,' his voice was distant, 'can you come here a minute, sir?'" (141).

Scout describes the loss of innocence in this passage so perfectly. Once Jem tells on Dill, his childhood is over and Scout knows it. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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