Which words best describe Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three words to describe Scout are reader, volatile, and sympathetic.

One of the best ways to find words to describe characters is to look at how other characters describe them.  One word to describe Scout is reader.  Reading is very important to Scout.  Jem first says that Scout has been reading “ever since she was born” when they first meet Dill (Ch. 1).  This is hyperbole of course, but it demonstrates the significance of reading to Scout. 

Another time when we see how important reading is to Scout is when her new teacher Miss Caroline tells her she should not be doing it because she is too good at it.  It throws the teacher off because she is supposed to be teaching all of the kids to read.  Scout finds the whole thing very disturbing.

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. (Ch. 2)

Scout has learned to read by sitting in her father’s lap.  It is part of what keeps her close to her father.  She does not consider it an intellectual pursuit so much as integral to her being.  Until she started school and the teacher found fault with her for reading, Scout didn’t see anything wrong with what she and her father were doing.

Another word that describes Scout is volatile.  She has a temper, and often gets into fights because of it.

Catching Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard gave me some pleasure, but when I was rubbing his nose in the dirt Jem came by and told me to stop. (Ch. 3)

Although she often reacts violently, especially when people challenge her father, as Scout gets older she learns to put herself into other people’s skin and “walk around in it” so that she can look at things from their point of view (Ch. 3).  In this way she slowly develops some much-needed empathy.

That leads me to the last term to describe Scout, which definitely describes an older Scout, and that is sympathetic.  She develops sympathy for Mayella Ewell during the trial, and shows sympathy for Arthur Radley after he saves their lives by killing Bob Ewell on Halloween.  She demonstrates this by being polite to him and walking him home.

"Come along, Mr. Arthur," I heard myself saying, "you don't know the house real well. I'll just take you to the porch, sir." (Ch. 30)

Scout’s treatment of Arthur “Boo” Radley shows that she has grown up, and no longer thinks of him as a scary monster.  She has developed the empathy that all adults need, and demonstrates it when she stands on his porch and imagines her childhood through his eyes. 

Scout grows up over the course of her book.  It is a dramatic childhood, fraught with tragedy and heartache.  Scout overcomes all of these and develops, honing her personality and becoming an adult.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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