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Scout is the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird. As the narrator, she is a grown woman telling the story through her eyes as a young girl. Much of the charm of the book derives from the adult Scout’s ironic perspective on the experience of growing up in the Depression-era south. As the novel progresses, the reader sees Scout develop into an increasingly sophisticated person. The following quotes illustrate some of the traits she possesses.
1. When Scout first meets Dill, Dill kids her about her size and age, saying that she looks “right puny for goin’ on seven.” Scout responds with “I’m little but I’m old.” This line shows that Scout possesses a self-confidence that is probably a little unwarranted, but present nonetheless.
2. Scout’s first day at school is filled with misadventures. One occurs when she attempts to explain Walter Cunningham’s refusal to accept a quarter from the young teacher, Miss Caroline, to pay for his lunch. Scout tells Miss Caroline that the Cunninghams “don’t have much, but they get along on it.” This shows that Scout has an awareness and knowledge of other Maycomb families that is beyond what we would expect from a first grader. She is also sensitive to the economic plight of some of her neighbors.
3. Later, as they were walking back home from school, Jem and Scout found two pennies in the knothole of a tree in front of the Radley place. As they tried to decide what to do with the pennies, and whether or not to keep them, adult-narrator Scout explains their thought process:
Finders were keepers unless title was proven. Plucking an occasional camellia . . . was part of our ethical culture, but money was different.
The kids decide to ask around at school to try to find the owner of the two pennies. This shows that both Scout and Jem have a developing sense of morality—they understand that someone else might need that money.
4. When she is sitting on the porch with Miss Maudie discussing Boo Radley, Scout says, “Maybe he died and they stuffed him up the chimney.” This shows that Scout, despite her growing maturity, still possesses a childlike view of some things that does not square with reality.
5. When Miss Maudie’s house burns down in the middle of a cold night, Jem and Scout are instructed by Atticus to stand in front of the Radley house while the fire is put out. As Scout stands there shivering, Boo Radley, unbeknownst to them, puts a blanket around her shoulders. Later when Scout learns that Boo, who terrifies her, did this, she says, “My stomach turned to water and I nearly threw up . . .”
This shows that Scout is, as a six-year-old, subject to fanciful and irrational fears.
As the novel progresses, the reader begins to get a deeper sense of the woman that Scout will grow into. It is Scout's observations, as told by the now adult Scout, that make this evident to the reader. The next three examples illustrate this character development.
6. Scout’s observations also reflect her character. When Jem receives a white camellia from Ms. Dubose following her death, Scout watches his reaction. “When I went off to bed I saw him fingering the white petals.” After the contentious and sometimes even hateful relationship between the children and the irascible Mrs. Dubose, this act by Jem reveals an ability to reconsider his actions and opinions. Scout’s observation and recognition of this reveals the same qualities in herself.
7. An important marker in Scout’s development is her perception of her father, Atticus. At first she sees him as old and in some ways irrelevant. He doesn’t seem to be a vital as other, younger parents. But when the verdict is read at the trial and Atticus is leaving the courtroom, the black observers in balcony all stand as a sign of respect and appreciation. Scout reports that the black clergyman, Reverend Sykes, says, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” This observation reveals that, through the trial and the resulting backlash of hatred and prejudice, Scout has come to understand her father’s role as a quiet moral leader in the community.
8. Finally, in its last pages, the novel returns to a quote from earlier in the story. Scout is reflecting on the most important thing she learned over the time covered in the story, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” This shows that Scout’s moral development reached a critical stage at some point. We don’t really know for sure if it happened when she was a youngster or later on, but the fact that she realizes the wisdom of her father’s pronouncement is enough to show that she has developed the same qualities herself.
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