In Chapters 24-26 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses several literary devices or elements, including irony and figurative language. Irony is a literary device or element in which an author uses language or events that are the opposite of what is expected to convey humor. In Chapter 24 ...
In Chapters 24-26 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses several literary devices or elements, including irony and figurative language. Irony is a literary device or element in which an author uses language or events that are the opposite of what is expected to convey humor. In Chapter 24, for example, there are some wonderful examples of ironic humor when Aunt Alexandra, Mrs. Merriweather, and the other ladies of Maycomb gather for a tea party. They are discussing missionary activity, which they consider very benevolent, but which Scout, as a young child, does not understand. Here is the description of part of their party:
"Today Aunt Alexandra and her missionary circle were fighting the good fight all over the house. From the kitchen, I heard Mrs. Grace Merriweather giving a report in the livingroom on the squalid lives of the Mrunas, it sounded like to me. They put the women out in huts when their time came, whatever that was; they had no sense of family—I knew that’d distress Aunty—they subjected children to terrible ordeals when they were thirteen; they were crawling with yaws and earworms, they chewed up and spat out the bark of a tree into a communal pot and then got drunk on it.
Immediately thereafter, the ladies adjourned for refreshments" (page 232; page numbers vary by edition).
What is ironic about this passage, and what is also humorous about it, is that the ladies think their activities are very well intentioned. However, the way Scout overhears the conversation makes their activities seem ridiculous. Even the way she understand the name of the people the ladies are trying to help--the Mrunas--is a mistake that is funny. Again, instead of sounding very religious, these women sound silly.
Another literary device that Harper Lee uses in this chapter is figurative language, more specifically metaphors. Figurative language involves using figures of speech, including metaphors and similes (types of comparisons), to make language more vivid and descriptive. Here is an example:
"I was reminded of the ancient little organ in the chapel at Finch’s Landing. When I was very small, and if I had been very good during the day, Atticus would let me pump its bellows while he picked out a tune with one finger. The last note would linger as long as there was air to sustain it. Mrs. Merriweather had run out of air, I judged, and was replenishing her supply while Mrs. Farrow composed herself to speak" (page 236; page numbers vary by edition).
In this passage, Mrs. Merriweather is being compared through a metaphor to the old organ in the church, as she has just run out of air from talking too much (just as the organ ran out of air). In addition, there are also several uses of similes, which is a comparison that uses the words "like" or "as." An example is "the events of the summer hung over us like smoke in a closed room" (page 242). In this example, the events of the summer, including Tom Robinson's death, are compared to vapors that linger in a room without ventilation. This type of writing imparts vivid descriptions that help the reader understand the emotions behind the events in the novel.