Flashback In To Kill A Mockingbird

What are some of the flashback scenes in To Kill a Mockingbird?

It is already known that the whole book is a flashback, but would you say that the exposition revealed in the first chapter are flashbacks? What other flashbacks are found inside the book. I am not very good at identifying the differences!!! :)

Expert Answers
amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a bit difficult considering the entire novel is told in retrospect, that is, as one united flashback. The book as a whole, in this case, could be called a fictional memoir, or a memoir written as creative nonfiction (since it is loosely based on Lee's childhood). This all has more to do with the genre. Flashbacks can occur in fiction or nonfiction. 

More to the point of the question, what classifies as a flashback in a novel told completely in retrospect? One way to answer this is to look for flashbacks within the time frame of the novel - within Scout's childhood. So, any moment when Scout goes to the past (namely, within the time frame of her own childhood) would classify as a flashback. 

In Chapter 2, Miss Caroline reprimands Scout for learning to read from Atticus. She then tries to recall when and how she learned to read. This is a brief flashback: 

In the long hours of church—was it then I learned? I could not remember not being able to read hymns. Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that just came to me, as learning to fasten the seat of my union suit without looking around, or achieving two bows from a snarl of shoelaces. I could not remember when the lines above Atticus’s moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all the evenings in my memory . . . 

Perhaps the most significant flashback (as it pertains to the title and theme of the novel) occurs in Chapter 9. 

When he gave us our air-rifles Atticus wouldn’t teach us to shoot. Uncle Jack instructed us in the rudiments thereof; he said Atticus wasn’t interested in guns. Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” 

This flashback then returns to the present with Scout asking Miss Maudie about why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. 

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to consider many of the "flashbacks" in the first chapter as "remembrances." Flashbacks are usually transitions from the present back to the past in a fully developed scene; most of Scout's stories about Simon Finch and Atticus as a young man serve as exposition and are not really flashbacks. Of course, it can be argued that the entire novel is a flashback, since Scout begins her narration in Chapter 1 as an adult. There are examples of flashbacks in the novel, however.

  • There is a flashback at the beginning of Chapter 9, when Scout is about to fight Cecil Jacobs. The scene shifts forward to Scout questioning Atticus about his decision to defend Tom Robinson; then, later, Scout returns to the previous scene in the schoolyard, where she decides not to fight Cecil after all.
  • Another flashback (in the form of a recollection) comes in Chapter 25 when Dill leaves for Meridian. Scout misses him, and she recalls in length how Dill described seeing Tom Robinson's widow, Helen, fall "down in the dirt" after she learns of Tom's death.
  • Chapter 27 consists of a series of semi-flashbacks, where Scout recalls recent events in Maycomb before returning to the fateful Halloween night.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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