As Scout grows up throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, her character undergoes several changes. Scout’s strongest traits are her intelligence, compassion, and courage. At the beginning of the novel, Scout is naive, curious, and a bit of a tomboy. By the end, her experiences in Maycomb have taught her to be more introspective and perceptive.
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Scout's character traits include:
- Curiosity. Scout is quick to taste the gum found in the knothole of the Radley oak, knowing it may be poisoned by Boo. "When I did not die I crammed it into my mouth."
- An adventurous streak. She follows Jem and Dill on nearly all of their forays to the Radley place, trying her best to disprove Jem's claim that "... you're gettin' more like a girl every day!"
- Being a tomboy. Big for her age, she fights with older boys constantly. She hates dresses, much to the consternation of Aunt Alexandra. Instead, Scout prefers her beloved overalls, "the garments she [Alexandra] most despised."
- Intelligence. She is the smartest student in her first grade class, reading well above grade level and writing in cursive. This upsets her teacher, who believes that only she can "undo the damage" done by her nightly reading sessions with Atticus.
- Courage. She defends Jem when he is manhandled by one of the lynch mob, kicking "the man swiftly... I intended to kick his shin, but aimed too high."
- Compassion. She feels guilty about rubbing Walter Cunningham Jr.'s nose in the dirt and insulting him at the dinner table; instead, she hopes to invite him back to the Finch house to "spend the night with us sometime."
- A romantic nature. Scout falls in love with Dill, who asks Scout to marry him. "With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable."
Introspective: After Scout demonstrates her reading abilities to Miss Caroline and tells her she could read since birth, Miss Caroline tells Scout not to let her imagination run away with her. Miss Caroline then tells Scout not to read with her father. Scout displays her introspective personality by mentioning,
"I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime. I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers" (13).
Helpful: Scout takes on the responsibility of explaining why Walter Cunningham Jr. refuses to accept Miss Caroline's quarter. Scout mentions,
I turned around and saw most of the town people and the entire bus delegation looking at me. . . I rose graciously on Walter's behalf (14).
Apprehensive: Scout is afraid of her reclusive neighbor Boo Radley and refuses to partake in Jem's game. Scout is apprehensive about playing and says,
He can get out at night when we're all asleep (25).
Naive: Through the majority of the novel, Scout is very narrow-minded and naive. At one point, she mentions that she is ashamed of her father and comments,
Our father didn't do anything. He worked in an office, not in a drugstore. Atticus did not drive a dump-truck for the county, he was not the sheriff, he did not farm, work in a garage, or do anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone (57).
Impulsive: Scout is a typical child who acts on her impulses. In Chapter 15, Scout is hiding with Jem and Dill as they watch the Old Sarum bunch surround Atticus. When Scout hears Atticus respond to the mob, she runs out from her hiding place. She narrates,
This was the second time I heard Atticus ask that question in two days, and it meant somebody's man would get jumped. This was too good to miss. I broke away from Jem and ran as fast I could to Atticus (94).
Understanding: At the end of the novel, Tate tells Atticus why he plans to conceal Boo Radley's involvement in Bob's death. Scout understands why Tate is protecting Boo and metaphorically applies an earlier lesson she learned from her father by saying,
"Well, it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?" (169).
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