What does To Kill A Mockingbird say about childhood?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though not an adolescent novel, To Kill a Mockingbird features children predominantly in the storyline. With Scout as the narrator and Jem as the next major character, they are the focus of nearly every chapter. Jem and Scout grow substantially during the two-plus years that encompasses TKAM. They also experience things that few other children their age normally do. Their lost innocence is a major theme of the novel, culminating in their near-death battle with Bob Ewell near the end. They witness the prejudice and hate that embodies many of the people of Maycomb, and they see the positive, loving sides of many people as well.

Jem and Scout grow up in a loving household, where education and free thinking is stessed by father Atticus. They barely seem to know that most children their age also have a mother to watch over them, but they receive the motherly touch from Calpurnia and Miss Maudie--and on occasion, Aunt Alexandra. Dill, on the other hand, suffers from a lack of parental contact; luckily, he finds love and friendship from the Finches during his stay in Maycomb. Nevertheless, he serves as a symbol of the product of a dysfunctional home, and one wonders how it will affect him in the future. We don't have to worry about Scout and Jem, who we know will turn out alright under Atticus' guidance.

Most of the other children mentioned are poor and needy. Walter Cunningham, Burris Ewell and Little Chuck Little are examples of normal children of the era; they are often hungry and blessed with few extravagances. But such was the life of 1930s Depression-era Alabama. Many of the children would probably grow up to serve their country in World War II and build families of their own afterward. The children didn't have it as easy as those of the 21st century, and they knew few luxuries, but those that survived the Depression were toughened by the hard times they had endured.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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