What adjectives did author Harper Lee use in describing Scout, Jem, or Dill in Chapter 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird? What adjectives would the reader use?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee uses both direct and indirect characterization techniques to introduce her readers to the three main child characters, Scout, Jem, and Dill. Direct characterization is a technique in which an author directly describes the characters. An author will use many adjectives to describe a character when employing direct characterization. Indirect characterization is a technique in which the author uses a character's actions, dialogue, and interactions with other characters to imply what a character is like. When using indirect characterization, while an author may not necessarily use adjectives to describe a character, the reader will be able to deduce adjectives that fit the character's description. In the opening chapter, Harper Lee primarily uses direct characterization techniques to introduce Dill, whereas she uses indirect characterization to introduce Jem and Scout.

In the opening chapter, since Lee uses more direct characterization techniques to describe Dill than any other character, Lee uses more adjectives to describe Dill. Dill is a very remarkable and unusual person, and his first most noticeable, remarkable characteristic is his size. Therefore, the very first adjective to describe Dill is found in Jem's comment about Dill's size when Scout and Jem first meet Dill: "You look right puny for goin' on seven." In using the adjective puny, Jem means that Dill looks very small, weak, and unimpressive for his age. AnotherĀ direct characterization of Dill is found in Scout's narrative description of him: "Dill was a curiosity." She continues further to describe his unusual linen shorts, snow white hair, and deep blue eyes. But, beyond his physical description, the most curious and unusual characteristic of Dill is his imagination.

In contrast to the number of adjectives found describing Dill, Lee only uses one adjective to describe Jem. When Dill challenges Jem to put his "big toe in the front yard" of the Radley Place, calling Jem scared, Jem indirectly characterizes himself as respectful in his retort: "Ain't scared, just respectful." Jem's reference to his respectfulness is an honest characterization of Jem's ability to respect the thoughts, needs, and desires of others, similar to his father's ability. It also foreshadows how much Jem will develop as a character as the novel progresses.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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