Similes In To Kill A Mockingbird

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Similes make comparisons and indicate similarities between two things in order to enhance a visual image. They give depth to language which may otherwise be overlooked and, through the visual image they create, they allow people to remember specific characteristics or events in a more imaginative way.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout narrates the story of her childhood and the significant events of Maycomb County as she sees them. Atticus, her father, has instilled a moral code within his children in an attempt to ensure that they do not suffer from Maycomb County's "usual disease" (chapter 9, page 91, 1988 ed.)

Scout, therefore, is honest and forthright and gets into trouble because of this. She struggles to please her Aunt Alexandra whose version of honesty and decency demands that Scout behave more like a lady than a tomboy: "Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam" (ch 9, page 84) in order to be true to her gender. To consider it on a more universal scale, Atticus, and therefore Jem and Scout, are the rays of light in this town and the reader can connect with their intentions. Aunt Alexandra may have other ideals but behaving like a sunbeam is appropriate in any context. It is Atticus's example that sets the tone. Using a comparison with a sunbeam is appropriate and ironic in Maycomb County.   

Scout knows her father is older than most of her school friends' fathers and, in expressing her opinion honestly, she does suggest that, in fact, he would not "arouse the admiration of anyone." The trial has and will attract all the wrong kind of attention to the family and Scout laments that "he would not remain as inconspicuous as we wished him to" (ch 10, page 92), meaning that, if she is honest with herself, much of the attention is unwelcome. It is fitting that, as the story develops, the children, through Tom's case and all the attention it creates, learn the real value of honesty, integrity and how justice is not always served but that a person always has to do his best. Atticus never draws attention to himself, only to the cause.

In chapter 13, Aunt Alexandra comes to stay with the family and her style of parenting is very different from Atticus's style. Scout can never think of anything to talk about to Aunty as they have so little in common. She recognizes that her aunt "fitted into the world of Maycomb like a hand in a glove, but never into the world of Jem and me" (ch 13, page 133). The people of Maycomb believe they are honest but their hypocritical attitudes cause them to remain out of touch. The fact that Aunt Alexandra is a "good fit" for the town but that Scout and Jem are not exposes the subjective version of honesty which exists in Maycomb. 

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