Why is Scout's ham costume significant in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several reasons as to why Scout's ham costume is significant in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. During Maycomb's Halloween festival, Mrs. Grace Merriweather composes a pageant in which the children dress up as the county's agricultural products. Scout dresses up like a ham, and her cumbersome costume is made out of chicken wire and fabric. Aside from providing comic relief to the story, Scout's perception of Bob Ewell's attack is altered because her costume blocks her vision. Scout is unable to see who saved them during the attack, and Boo Radley's heroics are not obvious to the reader. This allows Harper Lee to build tension before revealing Boo's involvement. In addition to heightening the mood and tension of the story, Scout's ham costume prevents Bob's knife from stabbing her. When Sheriff Tate examines her crushed ham costume, he shows Atticus the clean line in the fabric from Bob's knife. Scout's ham costume protects her during the attack and saves her life.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout's ham costume is significant as a symbol of childhood innocence. What could be more innocent than a Halloween school pageant in which the children dress up as farm products? It is also a symbol of how she is embedded in the community: there is no question of her participation or of her family making the costume for her. But that it is a Halloween costume is also significant. Halloween is particularly the holiday where childhood innocence meets the idea of evil in the world through witches, devils and ghosts—and Bob Ewells. 

Like the costume, Scout's innocence protects her. She isn't stabbed. But, like innocence, it also blinds her. Because of getting tangled in the costume, Scout can't see what is going on. Since we as readers see the story through her eyes, we too are left wondering about who stabbed Bob Ewell or if he really fell on his knife. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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