To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What are the indirect and direct characterizations of Miss Stephanie in Chapters 7 and 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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1. In chapter 7, Jem and Scout find two carved dolls in the knothole of the tree and initially think that Mr. Avery made them. Scout then uses indirect characterization to describe Miss Stephanie Crawford by telling her brother,

Maybe he [Mr. Avery] sits on the porch and looks at us instead of Miss Stephanie. If I was him, I would (Lee, 61).

Scout's comment would be considered an example of indirect characterization because she does not explicitly say that Miss Stephanie is unattractive. Scout implies that Miss Stephanie is unattractive by telling Jem that if she was Mr. Avery, she would rather watch them play than look at Miss Stephanie.

2. When Jem builds an overweight snowman using dirt and snow, Scout uses direct characterization to describe Miss Stephanie by saying,

He looks like Stephanie Crawford with her hands on her hips. . . . Fat in the middle and little-bitty arms (Lee, 68).

Scout's comment regarding Miss Crawford's appearance is considered an example of direct characterization because Scout...

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Characterisation is the process via which an author acquaints the reader with a fictitious character. Characterisation, thereby, reveals the personality of the character. It is a method that tells the reader who the character is: how they think and feel; and the motivation behind their actions.

Characterisation may be of two types.

  1. Direct characterisation

This is when the author tells the reader about the character's personality or looks directly. For example, if I were to write a short story with a central character named 'Alan', an example of direct characterisation would be: "Alan was short, blonde, shy and prone to telling lies. However, he was also a kind boy."

This reveals Alan's traits - physical and otherwise - in a direct, straightforward manner, with little need of inference on the readers part.

In Chapter 7 and 8 of Two Kill A Mockingbird, there are only few examples of the direct characterisation of Miss Stephanie Crawford. In Chapter 8, after Scout and Jem have built a snowman, Scout says:

"He looks like Miss. Stephanie Crawford with her hands on her hips. Fat in the middle and little bitty arms"

The narratorial voice, here, tells us of Miss Stephanie's physical characteristics.

2. Indirect characterisation

You've heard the adage "show, don't tell" when it comes to writing. That is basically a pretty good definition of indirect characterization. Using this technique, the author reveals the character's personality without an explicit description. For instance, using the Alan example above, I could write: "Alan was always used a lot of sunscreen on the beach because he was prone to sun burns. He had a short attention span, unless he was looking at girls."

Here, without explicitly telling you, I have inferred that Alan is (a) fair-skinned or with a skin condition, (b) heterosexual (c) possibly a romantic.

Indirect characterisation often makes use of a few methods to reveal the personality of a character. These may be:

  1. Speech. How does a character talk and what does (s)he say?
  2. Actions. How does a character behave? What does (s)he do?
  3. Looks. The characters appearance and clothing. A lined face may reflect old age. Twinkling eyes may reflect a teasing, joyful personality. Mismatched clothes show that the character is prone to being disorganised. Etc.
  4. The opinions of other characters. Taken with a grain of salt, as other characters may have their biases.

In Chapters 7 and 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird, there are a few example's of indirect characterisation for Miss Stephanie.

  • (Chapter 7) Scout suggests that Crawford's "sweetheart" (Mr. Avery) "sits on the porch" and pays attention to the children instead of Crawford, saying: "If I was him, I would". This implies that Crawford is unattractive, or has a personality which makes her unappealing to children.
  • (Chapter 8) Mr. Avery suggests that when children misbehave the "seasons would change" and hence blames the Maycomb children for the harsh snowy weather. His romantic association with Miss Crawford suggests that she shares his thoughts - you date people you like and agree with, after all. Hence, it may be inferred that Crawford too uses religion to blame others and is strict in her interpretations. She is a 'kill-joy'.
  • (Chapter 8) When Miss Maudie's house burns down, Miss Stephanie lets the former stay with her (though the latter's own house is a little damaged by the fire). This shows that despite her flaws, Miss Crawford is a hospitable, characteristically Southern neighbour.
  • (Chapter 8) Miss Maudie tells the children that Stephanie Crawford has been "after" her "Lane cake" recipe for "thirty years", by which we can infer that Crawford is (a) fond of baking/cooking and (b) lived in this neighbourhood for a long time.
  • (Chapter 8) Scout says that Miss Crawford couldn't follow the Lane cake recipe because it "called for one large cup of sugar". This highlights that - to the children - Crawford seems like a bitter individual, not prone to sweetness.

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