Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

How is Dill looked at as an outsider in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Dill's heightened sensitivity is one characteristic that makes him an outsider of Maycomb in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Since he is from Meridian, not Maycomb, Dill is not influenced by Maycomb's racism and is able to view Maycomb's people critically.

We especially see Dill's sensitivity during Tom Robinson's trial. During Robinson's cross-examination by Mr. Gilmer, Dill must be escorted out of the courthouse by Scout because he is sobbing. When Scout asks why he is crying, Dill explains he couldn't stand the way Mr. Gilmer was treating Robinson, "talking so hateful to him" (Chapter 19). In contrast to Dill's sensitivity to the situation, Scout argues it is Mr. Gilmer's job to treat Robinson that way. She even makes a very racist remark that shows she has not been able to escape Maycomb's racist influence, despite being Atticus's daughter:

Well, Dill, after all he's just a Negro.

This contrast between Scout and Dill shows us Dill, as an outsider, has not been sucked into Maycomb's racist thinking like Scout has.

The day after the trial, Scout, Jem, and Dill emerge from the Finches' house to see Miss Stephanie Crawford gossiping to Miss Maudie Atkinson and Mr. Avery about the trial and where the children had been. The children retreat to the security of Miss Maudie's house but emerge sometime later to see Miss Stephanie and Mr. Avery still gossiping. At the sight of the gossiping, Dill articulates his criticisms of the gossips by talking about his desires to laugh at their ridiculousness:

I think I'll be a clown when I get grown. . . Yes sir, a clown. . . There ain't one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I'm gonna join the circus and laugh my head off (Chapter 22).

He further explains that he'll be a "new kind of clown," a kind who laughs at people rather than be laughed at by others. Dill's comment that people, especially Maycomb's prejudiced gossips, are worthy of being laughed at shows us that, as an outsider of Maycomb, Dill is not afraid to judge Maycomb's people with a very critical eye.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team