How is To Kill a Mockingbird a novel about growth and maturation?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel of growth and maturation because it focuses on the coming of age of young Scout as she comes to understand the world.

An example of Scout’s maturation is her developing sense of empathy.  In the beginning of the book, she is about six years old.  She acts impertinent questions, such as when she drills Dill on where his father is, and insults people without realizing it, such as when she asks Walter what he is doing when he pours syrup on his dinner.

When Scout starts school, she has conflicts with her teacher.  Atticus explains that if she really wants to get along with people, she has to learn empathy.

"[If] you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-"


"-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (ch 3)

We see this development in Scout as she begins to walk away from fights, tries to understand changes in her brother Jem’s behavior, and tries to relate to Mr. Cunningham about a subject relevant to him when the mob confronts Atticus.

The first true sign of Scout’s maturity is when she feels sympathy for Mayella Ewell during the trial.  On the surface, Mayella has caused her a lot of grief lately.  Yet when she hears about her life, Scout is able to walk around in Mayella’s skink.

As Tom Robinson gave his testimony, it came to me that Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the world. She was even lonelier than Boo Radley, who had not been out of the house in twenty-five years. (ch 19)

Scout’s realization about the true circumstances of Mayella’s life demonstrates that she is growing and maturing.  She has come to learn the skill of empathy, and can appreciate another person’s situation.

The coming of age theme weaves the two threads of Boo Radley and the trial together, as Scout comes to understand both Mayella and Boo.  She grows throughout the novel to a more and more adult view of the world and the people in it.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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