Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

How might the way Scout tells the story bias the reader towards or against other characters in To Kill a Mockingbird?  

Expert Answers

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

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is written from Scout's adult voice as she remembers her childhood experiences. The adult perspective pieces together many of the holes she may have from her memory in order to create a solid story. As a result, the adult Scout might project more mature conclusions or biases about people that might have been different from what she actually felt or experienced at the time. With that said, Scout could also have demonized people she didn't understand while she was a child and carried those feelings into adulthood. One example of this possibility is Scout's feelings about Aunt Alexandra. The reader might see Aunt Alexandra as a wicked witch based on Scout's assessment and portrayal of her, as shown in the following passage:

"Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to be doing things that required pants. . . furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father's lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year. She hurt my feelings and set my teeth permanently on edge" (81).

The above passage shows Scout resisting Aunt Alexandra's attempts to teach her to be a lady. Aunt Alexandra wants Scout to wear dresses, help her father, and not beat other children up, but that doesn't mean she hates her. On the contrary, it's because of her love for her family that she wants to train Scout to behave properly. The friction between the two women, though, probably never really healed and Scout ends up carrying those feelings over into the storytelling. Hence, the story presents only Scout's side of her feelings for Aunt Alexandra, which might give the reader the same biased feelings as well.

For an example of how Scout describes someone to make the reader like another character rather than despise him is with Dill. Scout loves Dill, so descriptions surrounding him will be more positive, as in the following passage:

"Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree-house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill" (34).

Contrast the above passage with the one about Aunt Alexandra and the reader can completely see that Dill is a positive character in Scout's story. She places Dill in front of a backdrop of colors, good food, and sleeping outside--all the things kids love about summer! With such love flowing through wonderful language as this, the reader can certainly appreciate Dill.

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