Who is a stereotyped character in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dr. Wheeler defines a stereotyped character as one "who is so ordinary or unoriginal that the character seems like an oversimplified representation of a type, gender, class, religious group, occupation" (Literary Terms and Definitions, Carson-Newman University). They are the types of characters we recognize very easily when we see them such as the bully or the nerd.

One stereotype we find in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is the Southern belle, represented by Aunt Alexandra. The Southern belle is usually a young, unmarried woman of Southern high society who holds strong beliefs of social superiority and of proper feminine behavior, believing in particular that women should be in positions of subordination and subservience. They are often even racially prejudiced. Though a married woman herself, Aunt Alexandra was raised as a Southern belle and still holds those beliefs; she is even trying to raise Scout as a Southern belle. In terms of appearance, Southern belle's are often corseted, gloved, and carry fans. We particularly see Aunt Alexandra being described as a Southern belle in the following:

To all parties present and participating in the life of the county, Aunt Alexandra was one of the last of her kind: she had river-boat, boarding-school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was born in the objective case; she was an incurable gossip. (Ch. 13)

Beyond her manners, Aunt Alexandra is described as being representative of a Southern belle when she is characterized as persistently wearing a corset and as being racially prejudiced.

A second stereotype we see in To Kill a Mockingbird is what today we might call white trailer trash, and the Ewells represent this social class. According to descriptions, the Ewells are uneducated, always dirty, extremely poor, and have never "done an honest day's work" in their lives; Bob Ewell lives solely off of relief checks. In particular, Bob Ewell's son, Burris, is described as having stereotypical dirtiness in Scout's following narration:

He was the filthiest human I had ever seen. His neck was dark gray, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his fingernails were black deep into the quick. (Ch. 3)

In general, To Kill a Mockingbird contains many stereotypes, but Lee uses many of them in more creative ways than average.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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