What role does humor play in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    Scout's childlike innocence provides plenty of narrative humor in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.  Because of the more serious aspects of the novel--racial bias and unrest, rape, madness, poverty, drug addiction and attempted child murder--the story needs an occasional dose of levity to allow the reader to breathe easier.
    Lee's storytelling style is highly entertaining, and there are numerous examples throughout the novel, primarily through the eyes of Scout. Dill is comically drawn, and he brings out the playfulness of the often serious Finch children. Boo Radley is presented as a scary madman with a sympathetic side, but the kids' antics in trying to coax him from his supposedly haunted home often lighten the mood. Scout (and Lee) finds humor in the many unmarried women that reside near the Finches though, aside from Miss Maudie Atkinson, they have little apparent joy in their own lives. The seriousness of the Tom Robinson rape trial is lightened by the appearance of Dolphus Raymond, who pretends to be a drunk because it pleases him to see others gossip about him.
    Like real life, humor can often be found even in the worst of times. As Mark Twain once said,

"Humor is a great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place." 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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