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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What are examples of indirect and direct characterizations of Scout Finch in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Based on the definitions provided by the other educators, you are going to find many more examples of indirect characterization in this novel because Scout is the narrator. Since the conflict is narrated by her, it's a little more difficult for the author to craft places where the narrator directly speaks about herself. (Example: "I am a precocious child.") It just typically doesn't fall naturally into conversation or thoughts. So most of the direct characterization will come in places where other people talk about Scout to Scout—which is a little harder to find. However, since Scout is the narrator, there are plenty of places where we learn about her indirectly through her responses to others.

Direct Characterization:

Scout's family has more money than some, and she's still trying to determine how that influences people: When Jem invites Walter Cunningham home to eat with them after Scout has tried to beat him up, Scout criticizes Walter's heavy use of syrup on his food. Calpurnia is infuriated at Scout's lack of manners for her guest, and she tells Scout, "Yo‘ folks might be better’n the Cunninghams but it don’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin‘ ’em—" Here, Calpurnia directly reveals that the Finch family holds a higher social standing in Maycomb than do the Cunninghams. We also learn that Scout has disgraced her guest—and that Calpurnia won't stand for it.

Scout is not impressed with her educational system. She directly criticizes the methods used to supposedly educate her in chapter 7:

School started. The second grade was as bad as the first, only worse—they still flashed cards at you and wouldn’t let you read or write.

Scout finds nothing interesting in a school that forbids her to read and write—which she can already do and has to hide from her teacher. She is forced to attend and follow the new teaching methods of her young teacher, forever bored and longing for more. When Scout went to school, she was excited to learn new things; when she is met with hostility for this desire, she quickly loses that fire.

Indirect characterization:

Scout is intuitive for her young age. When the gang from Old Sarum appear at the jail with the the intention of taking Tom Robinson with them, it is Scout who finds a way to diffuse the tension. When Atticus is cross-examining Bob Ewell, Scout understands that there is significance in his being left-handed. When the jury returns and refuses to look at Tom, Scout knows what the verdict will be. She doesn't have the full understanding of an adult, but Scout is more intuitive than most children her age.

Scout adores her family . When life is complicated, Scout turns to Jem and Atticus. When she's confused, she crawls into Atticus's lap until she is is so big that he tells her he'll have to hold on to a "piece" of her instead. When she's trying to process information in their town, she looks to Jem for advice;...

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when he withdraws after Tom's trial, Scout is upset until Atticus tells her that Jem just needs time to tuck away the events for a while until he can think about them later. Scout looks to her brother and father as a means of interpreting a complicated world, and she trusts their wisdom.

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Direct characterization is when the author uses adjectives to explain what a character is like. The author directly tells the reader a character's personality and motivations.

One example of direct characterization of Scout comes early in the novel through dialogue. When meeting Dill, who brags that he can read, Scout's older brother, Jem, retorts that Scout's been a reader far longer than the seven-year-old Dill:

"Shoot, no wonder then," said Jem, jerking his thumb at me. "Scout yonder's been readin' ever since she was born, and she ain't even started to school yet."

This dialogue tells the reader Scout reads, but it also shows how Atticus has instilled the value of learning in his children even before they were of school-age. Though it is unlikely Scout actually started reading as an infant, showing that she's read from very young also highlights her keen mind.

Indirect characterization is much subtler than direct characterization. Indirect characterization is when the author reveals character through dialogue, actions, and thoughts.

Harper Lee uses indirect characterization for Scout far more than direct, probably because Scout is the narrator. Scout's combative nature comes through her interactions with other children. She gets in fights with boys and is not afraid to openly question a teacher's conduct during class. She also has a temper, which she loses easily, and a lack of social tact, such as when she unwittingly humiliates Walter Cunningham when he comes to dinner and uses syrup on his food.

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An author creates indirect characterization when, instead of telling the reader exactly what the character is like, the author implies or shows what the character is like. An author can show a reader what a character is like through the character's actions, dialogue between other characters, or even through the character's thoughts. In To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee definitely uses far more indirect characterization to inform her readers of what Scout is like rather than direct characterization.We see the first example of indirect characterization of Scout in the very first chapter. Here, grown-up Scout is narrating for us what her childhood was like. At one point in the chapter, she particularly describes in detail what Calpurnia, the Finch family cook, was like. Though she uses direct characterization to describe Calpurnia, she uses indirect characterization to describe herself when she describes Calpurnia's attitude toward her when she was a child. Specifically, Scout describes that Calpurnia was always shooing Scout out of the kitchen and asking, as Scout phrases it, "why I couldn't behave as well as Jem when she knew he was older." She further relays that Calpurnia was always ordering her home when she didn't yet want to come home, and their "battles were epic and one-sided." Through these indirect descriptions, we actually learn a great deal about Scout. First, we learn that Scout was very stubborn as a child, and her stubbornness was, in part, due to still being very young. We also learn that Scout was very opinionated and even argumentative as a child. Scout is definitely not as mild-mannered as her older brother Jem.In contrast to indirect characterization, an author creates direct characterization by coming right out and describing to the reader exactly what the character is like. The Literary Devices dictionary provides us the following example of direct characterization:

Bill was short and fat, and his bald spot was widening with every passing year. ("Characterization")

Though direct characterization is seldom used in describing Scout, we can keep in mind that even clothing descriptionscount as characterization because what a character wears can say a great deal about the character. We see Scout as the adult narrator using direct characterization to describe herself when towards the end of the novel, in Chapter 27, Scout describes the ham costume she has been assigned to wear for the first-ever Maycomb Halloween pageant. Scout describes that Mrs. Crenshaw, "the local seamstress," bent chicken wire into the shape of a ham and covered it with painted brown cloth. But, one of the the most amusing descriptions is found when Scout as the narrator relays, "Jem said I looked exactly like a ham with legs."The description of Scout's costume is actually very revealing and closely ties in with things we already know about Scout. The term ham has become an idiom to describe someone who acts up and is comical in their overacting. Throughout the book, we have certainly seen Scout act as a ham.

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What is one example of direct characterization of Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch is the principal character and narrator of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. She is six years old when the novel begins and nine when it ends, although Lee’s story is told retrospectively by an adult Jean Louise Finch. As Lee did use her main protagonist as narrator, direct characterizations of Scout had to be attributed to other characters, especially her older brother Jem and, most importantly, her father Atticus. An early example of such a characterization occurs in the opening passages of Chapter 3 when the “tomboy” Scout has tackled the desperately poor Walter Cunningham and is holding him on the ground. Jem intervenes in the one-sided scuffle by inviting the hapless Walter home for dinner and explaining that his sister is “crazy” and “won’t fight you anymore.” Jem’s characterization of his sister as “crazy” is not intended to be taken literally. Scout is free-spirited and strong-willed and has been raised under a strict code of conduct while being afforded enough liberty to learn life’s lessons through observation and inquiry. She is also, however, capable of resorting quickly to violence.

Another direct characterization of Scout occurs later in the same chapter. The Ewell family, the reader learns early in the novel, is the town’s main example of “trash.” Virulently racist and frequently drunk, Bob Ewell, the patriarch of the clan, lives off welfare, most of which is spent on liquor, and is the force driving the story’s most important theme, that of the pernicious influence on human dignity of systemic racism. As the Finch family discusses the Ewell family and its propensity for living outside the bounds of the law, as well as of simple human decency, Atticus comments to his inquisitive daughter,

“Let us leave it at this,” said Atticus dryly. “You, Miss Scout Finch, are of the common folk. You must obey the law.” He said that the Ewells were members of an exclusive society made up of Ewells.

These are but two examples of direct characterization of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama, Lee’s fictional town, which was inspired by her own upbringing in the Deep South, is viewed through the eyes of a precocious young child whose father is a font of wisdom and tolerance in a setting known for neither.

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What is one example of direct characterization of Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Direct characterization is any explicit explanation or description of a character. This means that the reader does not have to use inference to understand what may or may not have been implied. Direct characterization can come from the narrator, the character himself or herself, or from other characters. Atticus describes Scout explicitly when he is talking to Uncle Jack about her bad behavior at Christmas. He says the following after Scout gets into a scuffle with her cousin Francis:

"Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it. Hotheadedness isn't. Scout's got to learn to keep her head and learn soon, with what's in store for her these next few months. She's coming along, though. Jem's getting older and she follows his example a good bit now. All she needs is assistance sometimes. . . the answer is she know I know she tries. . . but Scout'd just as soon jump on someone as look at him if her pride's at stake" (87-88).

In the above passage, Atticus directly states that, first, Scout is using bad language lately, but it is a phase; second, she's hotheaded and needs to work on not losing it; third, she is trying her best to stop fighting with others; and finally, she fights to defend her honor and pride. Had Atticus only alluded to her bad behavior without being specific, then that would have been an example of indirect characterization. With this passage, the reader clearly sees what Scout needs to work on as well as the fact that she's doing her best to follow her father's wishes.

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What is one example of direct characterization of Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Direct characterization is when the narrator tells us a character’s traits.  Since Scout is the narrator in To Kill a Mockingbird, direct characterization is when Scout describes herself.  While Scout spends a lot of time characterizing others, she does not often describe herself.

An example of indirect characterization is in chapter 2, when Miss Caroline learns that Scout can read.  Scout considers this.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

With this statement, we learn that Scout loves to read.  Throughout the book, we learn more about Scout from her actions than what she says about herself.  She tells us what she thinks and what she does, but she rarely describes herself.  Although she is the narrator, the focus of the book is on others.

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