Who is telling the story in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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An adult Jean Louise (Scout) Finch is telling the story.

Scout, or Jean Louise Finch, is going into first grade when the events of the story start. The narrator is an adult version of Scout, however.  You can tell first of all by the fact that she...

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An adult Jean Louise (Scout) Finch is telling the story. 

Scout, or Jean Louise Finch, is going into first grade when the events of the story start. The narrator is an adult version of Scout, however.  You can tell first of all by the fact that she starts by explaining what is going to happen and second by the way she comments on events.  Scout is smart, but it is not a six-year-old’s perceptions we are getting. 

When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. (Ch. 1) 

As a narrator, adult Scout telling this story is a combination of her memories of herself and her adult wisdom reflecting back on them.  Therefore, she focuses on the way she interpreted things as a child, but has the intelligence and wisdom to understand the events she is describing. 

The events are the most important of her young life.  They played a very big part in forming her personality.  Her father defending a black man and the town’s reaction caused her to grow up quickly and sooner than she would have, as she had to learn to understand events that even adults grapple with.  The adult narrator’s insights on Scout’s state of mind help us understand the journey she took.

Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem and me to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him. I felt extremely noble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks. (Ch. 9)

Scout is a remarkable narrator.  She is precocious, empathetic, and resourceful.  For a little girl, she goes through a lot.  The story is told with humor and compassion, and we leave it feeling thoughtful about the story’s themes, including race, friendship, and parenthood.

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Jean Louise "Scout" Finch tells the story of her life from ages 6–9 in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The story is written from Scout's adult perspective from some future point in time as she remembers specific events and people during those critical years in her life, as well as during Maycomb's history. The novel is a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age story, that chronicles the events that helped to teach the protagonist to learn and grow from a limited understanding of childish things to a strong understanding of the world of adults. The major things that Scout learns about are prejudice, hospitality, discrimination, hypocrisy, love, loyalty, and learning that people aren't as bad as gossip makes them out to be. The world of Southern life during the 1930s is exposed for the racist world that it was before the Civil Rights movement thirty years later. As one reads through the text, it is interesting to experience the childlike perspectives and attitudes portrayed through Scout's narration as she learns and grows during each event. Meanwhile, one can clearly sense the adult voice behind the experiences as well, which helps to fill in any gaps of memory that one might have while looking back over a number of years.

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The narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird is, of course, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, Atticus' daughter and the character that is based on author Harper Lee herself. Scout tells the story from two perspectives: from her youthful side (aged 6-8) and from her adult viewpoint many years in the future. It explains why some of the passages seem so simplistic (and why Scout appears clueless about much of what is going on around her) and why she has such a wise grasp on other situations. Scout is based on the author, who was a notorious tomboy growing up in Monroeville, Alabama (the basis for Maycomb). Her best friend in Monroeville was the future writer Truman Capote, who was the inspiration for Dill. Atticus is based on Lee's own father, who was also an attorney.

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