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The first literary term I would use to describe To Kill a Mockingbird is Bildungsroman, which a term used for a coming-of-age story. In this type of story, a character starts out young and learns some life lessons. The narrator is Scout, who is only a little girl when the story beings. By the end, she is much more mature and worldly.
Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough. (ch 1)
Over the course of the novel, Scout learns how the world works. She gets many life experiences, and as her thoughts on the Radley porch at the end of the book demonstrate, she learns empathy.
Another important term is narrator. The story is told from Scout’s point of view. She uses the first person, which makes us even more connected to her. Yet things are also colored from her perspective, which is not always reliable since she is just a child.
When Scout asks her father if all lawyers defend Negroes, he tells her that they do. She is confused.
"Then why did Cecil say you defended niggers? He made it sound like you were runnin' a still." (ch 9)
She still does not understand racism. Scout does not realize that people will look down on her father because he associates with black men, or because he takes a black man’s word over a white woman’s.
The third literary term that can be used to describe the book is figurative language. There are many examples of careful description using non-literal language.
Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. (ch 1)
There is both personification and imagery here. First of all, the town is described as “tired” as if it were a person. Second of all, the courthouse is said to have “sagged” as a person might when old. The imagery of the red slop is an example of descriptive sensory language. You can both see and hear it. Throughout the book, examples like this are used to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.
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