What are some scene differences between Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird and the play adaptation?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One major difference between the play adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and her original novel is that the opening scene is really a compilation of multiple scenes in multiple chapters.

The play opens with the adult Jean Louise and child Scout alternately serving as narrators. In the opening scene, Jean Louise comments on how, growing up, she and Jem had felt their father was too old, "nearly fifty," which they felt "reflected on his manliness." Young Scout follows the comment with a reflection about all the interesting things Atticus didn't do that further made the children feel their father was a feeble man:

Atticus doesn't drive a dump truck for the county, he isn't a sheriff, he doesn't farm or work in a garage, or anything worth mentioning. Other fathers go hunting, play poker, or fish. Atticus works in an office, and he reads. (I.i.)

In the book, while it is true that the narrator Scout voices these same opinions, she doesn't do so until much later in the book, not until Chapter 10, nearly halfway into the book. Also, what Scout says in her narration in Chapter 10 is very similar to what the narrators say in the play but not identical. Of particular interest is the fact that Scout ends her list of things her father doesn't do with the comment, "... or do anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone."

Also, in the opening scene of the play, the voice of an unidentified boy is heard "calling from off L," meaning Offstage Left. The boy is heard saying, "Hey, Scout--how come your daddy defends niggers? (Singsong.) Scout's daddy defends nig ... gers!" (I.i). When Scout retorts, "You gonna take that back, boy?," the boy replies, "You gonna make me? My folks say your daddy's a disgrace and that nigger oughta hang from the water tank" (I.i).

The offstage, unidentified boy appears to be a representation of Cecil Jacobs in the book. While the dialogue exchange in the play is mostly an accurate representation of the dialogue in the book, the fight between Cecil Jacobs and Scout actually occurs much later in the book than in the play. In the book, the scene does not take place until Chapter 9. What's more, the scene in the book is used to develop a major theme, a theme not touched upon in the opening scene of the play. In Chapter 9, Scout is beginning to learn to control her temper, and though she feels tempted to hit Cecil, she drops her fists and walks away, making it the first time she had "ever walked away from a fight" (Ch. 10). Instead, in the opening scene of the play, though she never follows through with her swing, stage directions don't describe her as walking away and learning from the moment.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question