Why Dill?Okay, as I've been going over this book, I realize that in the scale of things, I'm not sure why Dill is in here. Let me say a bit more here. I can see the plot functions of Dill; he gets...

Why Dill?

Okay, as I've been going over this book, I realize that in the scale of things, I'm not sure why Dill is in here. Let me say a bit more here. I can see the plot functions of Dill; he gets the kids to do certain things, is fun, etc. However, how about the larger themes? So many of the characters seem in the book to Teach Scout Something. What does Dill teach her? (Is it enough, for example, that his parents seem to ignore him?)

 

Thanks.

Greg

Asked on by gbeatty

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renelane's profile pic

renelane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I have heard the rumor that Dill was modeled after Capote , as well, and I can certainly see some basis for this rumor. The friendship of Capote and Lee that has been made public share some of the qualities that Scout and Dill's friendship have.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Huh.  I hadn't heard that, but it makes sense.  If ever there was a gadfly, it was Mr. Capote. 

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leagye | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Hasn't there been some speculation that Dill was modeled after Lee's good friend, Truman Capote?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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I'm interested in reading all the responses.

For me, the character has always been one of the least satisfying of Lee's characters.  I too see his purpose as a plot device.  But to me, he is forgettable and not necessary.  I think Scout and Jem could easily have served each other the same challenges.  Despite protests otherwise here and elsewhere, I continue to find Dill clunky. 

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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In response to #5:  yes, I think that train of thought is very productive for it encompasses more or less the "essence" of his character, not just the purpose he serves in one particular scene. And as "innocent," he is also exciting, a rule breaker, a provocateur of sorts--but definitely displaced with no final home.

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leagye | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Why Dill?

Okay, as I've been going over this book, I realize that in the scale of things, I'm not sure why Dill is in here. Let me say a bit more here. I can see the plot functions of Dill; he gets the kids to do certain things, is fun, etc. However, how about the larger themes? So many of the characters seem in the book to Teach Scout Something. What does Dill teach her? (Is it enough, for example, that his parents seem to ignore him?)

 

Thanks.

Greg

I'm not sure that Dill teaches Scout anything, but I do think that Dill serves as a sort of foil character for entire Finch family. The contrasts between the two are striking: Dill "appears" in the story almost totally obscured by the collard greens in the garden. He is small in stature (though large in imagination!) However, the significance of his family life is hard to ignore. He is passed from relative to relative, seemingly invisible and unimportant. Compare this to the stability that the Finch family provides to Scout and Jem. The siblings are revered and cared for both physically (Calpurnia, Atticus and Aunt Alexandria) to the extreme, and emotionally (Atticus.) Even Calpurnia, who is a hired hand, takes great care to explain certain life lessons to Scout. Dill, on the other hand, all but disappears into the world, save for his friendship with Scout and Jem, who adore him. Consequently, Dill's presence in the book further reinforces the theme of innocence being no guarantee of safety: not for Boo Radley, not for Tom Robinson and not for Dill, as he is shuffled from one person to another.

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Well, she's figuring out what marriage means, and clearly she has little idea.  One thrust of the novel is her coming to terms  with what it means to be a southern female. She remains too young to learn the sexual aspects of it, but I do think it is interesting that she puts her arm through Boo's (she instructs him how to do this) at the end of the story when she walks him home.  It's as if she is doing this so that he knows he is the man, that she wants to give him that dignity of acting like the gentleman as he escorts her (while of course it is she escorting him).  Dill (maybe) provides a very innocent playful view of marriage absent of courtly rules of behavior and lady-gentleman-like conduct, existing in a time before these were "invented"--i.e. childhood / Eden.

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Dill is a background character, I think, as you say. He contributes to themes through his participation in plot more than he shapes themes, embodies themes by means of character or key images/metaphors associated with him.  "Summer was Dill," Scout says several times, in this way linking him to childhood and the freedom of those days, which we can perhaps understand more by way of contrast to the lack of freedom in the lives of others, a contrast which becomes more apparent with the trial. He also is a measure of Scout's confusion about being a girl, in that she and Dill profess their love and plan to marry.  Maycomb is in many ways an Eden, or at least so we think, until the dangers of the rabid dog, the fire, Mr Ewell, and of course the lurking monster of racism remind us of the real world encroaching upon it. Dill represents some aspects of that Eden. 

I doubt if these ruminations add insight to what you have already thought through--your question provokes me to meander through the ideas.

An interesting idea. If Maycomb is Eden, Dill is...one of its natural inhabitants?

I do see him as linked to summer and childhood, but how does that fit with a plan to marry? Would this be Scout's way of saying she'll grow up without abandoning the passions of childhood?

Greg

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Dill is a background character, I think, as you say. He contributes to themes through his participation in plot more than he shapes themes, embodies themes by means of character or key images/metaphors associated with him.  "Summer was Dill," Scout says several times, in this way linking him to childhood and the freedom of those days, which we can perhaps understand more by way of contrast to the lack of freedom in the lives of others, a contrast which becomes more apparent with the trial. He also is a measure of Scout's confusion about being a girl, in that she and Dill profess their love and plan to marry.  Maycomb is in many ways an Eden, or at least so we think, until the dangers of the rabid dog, the fire, Mr Ewell, and of course the lurking monster of racism remind us of the real world encroaching upon it. Dill represents some aspects of that Eden. 

I doubt if these ruminations add insight to what you have already thought through--your question provokes me to meander through the ideas.

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abeautifulfool | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Dill's Scout's best friend. Which is one of the most important roles in a child's life. Scout is loosely based around Harper Lee herself and Dill was loosely based upon Truman Capote. Growing up the two of them were very close friends.

Dill's not a backround character, being a best friend isn't a backround character. It's one of the most important roles, because everybody has a connection with Scout and Dill's is one of the strongest.

willspray's profile pic

willspray | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I hugeley disagree with him being a background character. All Atticus wants from Jem and Scout is for them to be able to "Walk around in others peoples skin".Dill is very empathetic. e.g. "were you ever a turtle,huh?". Dill shows empathy to the turtle, because he see's himself.Dill is empathetic towards teh turle because he understands it because it's like him. This is taken from when they are talking about trying to get boo radley to come out. Dill realises they are lighting a match under boo radley so they (Jem, Scout and Dill) approach Boo radley differently. Dill is a HUGE influence on Scout. Atticus realises this and knows jem is a good role model. All atticus wants is for Jem and Scout to understand other people Dill does this without even realising.

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