What literature techniques does Harper Lee use in To Kill a Mockingbird to represent Atticus's masculinity?What literature techniques are used in...

What literature techniques does Harper Lee use in To Kill a Mockingbird to represent Atticus's masculinity?


Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 11 of To Kill a Mockingbird, two literary techniques author Harper Lee uses to represent Atticus's masculinity are imagery and figurative language. Throughout the novel, Lee uses Atticus to show us that masculinity necessitates bravery. However, interestingly, one way in which she defines bravery is the ability to pay the utmost respect to your fellow human beings at all times, regardless of any circumstances, something that takes a great deal of courage to do. In Chapter 11, Lee uses the scene Scout narrates of Atticus paying his respect to Mrs. Dubose to characterize his bravery and to show bravery's close relationship with respect.

Imagery is first used to depict Atticus's bravery. Imagery is found in Scout's description of Atticus "sweep[ing] off his hat" and "gallantly" greeting Mrs. Dubose anytime he passes her house. Since we can visibly see hats, as well as hats being swept off a man's head, we know Scout's description includes a sight image. In addition, since we can hear someone speaking to another person, even in a gallant manner, we know Scout's description also includes a sound image. Both images characterize Atticus's masculinity because he is performing actions that only gentlemanly men, like himself, perform.

One example of figurative language we find in this same passage is a simile in Atticus's comment to Mrs. Dubose, "You look like a picture this evening." Though Scout notes the truth that he never says "like a picture of what," we know the simile in Atticus's comment serves as a compliment since pictures generally contain images people actually want to look at. Though Scout might accuse Atticus of lying, we learn later on that Atticus has genuine heartfelt respect for Mrs. Dubose, despite her cantankerous attitude. Therefore, the simile in Atticus's compliment shows that he is willing to dig deep within himself to see people as they would like to be seen rather than as his instincts might guide him to see. Since Scout is still young, she is guided by her instincts more than by her rational thought, and her instincts tell her that Mrs. Dubose is a horrible, ugly person. In contrast, Atticus is able to see the good in Mrs. Dubose and genuinely express the good he sees in a compliment in the form of a simile. Digging deep within one's self to see the good in another person is not an easy thing to do. Since it is a difficult task, we can say it takes a great deal of bravery to see a person in a new light. Therefore, Atticus's ability to use a simile in order to genuinely compliment Mrs. Dubose further shows us how brave he is, which further characterizes his masculinity.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question