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Although she has spent her entire lifetime in the Deep South, Scout Finch is only six years old when the novel begins, and thus has relatively little knowledge or awareness of the social structures and norms of the community in which she lives, with the exception of conflicts on the playground, which she normally settles promptly with her small fists. Beginning the novel with the youthful naivete of her first-person narrator, Lee is able to lead the reader, chapter by chapter, through a series of events that create growing awareness in Scout that there is a whole lot wrong with the world around her—namely racial prejudice against the blacks of the community, as well as a condescending attitude taken by some (her Aunt Alexandra) toward those perceived to be of lesser social station (such as Walter Cunningham and his family, clients of Atticus). Underscoring these prevailing attitudes, there is, of course, the tragic conviction and death of falsely accused Tom Robinson, and the sad case of Arthur “Boo” Radley, whose life was essentially ruined as a direct result of mistreatment, likely abuse, at the hands of his “religious” family. Scout is not one to passively accept what goes on around her and her actions and reactions (beating up Francis when he insults Atticus, for example) are shaped by her age, as well as her father’s wisdom, counsel and occasionally, a gentle reprimand. In the matter of Tom Robinson, and the ugliness surrounding his trial, and Atticus’s determination to defend Robinson to the best of his ability, Atticus asks his daughter to please refrain from using her fists, advising her to “use your head once in awhile. It’s a good one even if it does resist learning.” As the narrator, Scout begins the story with relatively few preconceived notions about the world around her; however, the Scout that brings the story to a conclusion has been forced to face some tragic truths about life in her hometown, borne out of some of the novel’s unhappy, and the case of Ewell’s attack on her and her brother, savage episodes.
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