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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Harper Lee uses figurative and descriptive language often throughout To Kill a Mockingbirdpainting a rich picture of the world that Scout grew up in. Metaphors, a literary device used to describe an an object or action in a way that isn't literally true but makes a comparison or explanation, are used often in the novel. 

Chapter One:

In the first chapter, Scout describes the town in summer. The passage is littered with descriptive language, including this metaphor:

"Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning." (pg. 5)

The description of collars as 'wilted' paints an image of flowers dying and drying up in the summer hear. The collars, most likely starched and crisp in the morning, would have loss their shape in the summer heat and 'wilted' as Scout described. 

Another description comes a page later, when Scout describes their cook:

"Calpurnia was something else again. She was all angles and bones..." (pg. 6)

The cook wasn't literally all angles and bones, but it serves a purpose of describing her features in a way that stresses the severity of her appearance. The description of Mrs. Dubose also uses this type of metaphor and comparison to express how Scout felt:

"Mrs. Dubose was plain hell." (pg. 6)

Eventually, Scout describes The Radley Place and the mysterious figure inside. She likens him to a ghost, to convey this sense of mystery and unease about the place and the inhabitant: 

"Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom." (pg. 8)

Chapter Two:

In Chapter Two, Scout starts 1st grade. After some difficulties with her teacher, Scout tells her brother Jem that Miss Caroline doesn't want her reading with Atticus anymore. When Scout thought what Jem was saying was ridiculous, she "...contented myself with asking Jem if he’d lost his mind" (pg. 18). Of course, Jem wouldn't have literally lost his mind, but instead was saying things Scout found outlandish. 

When Miss Caroline asked the students to bring out their food, Scout described it as:

"Molasses buckets appeared from nowhere, and the ceiling danced with metallic light." (pg. 19)

The molasses buckets didn't literally appear from nowhere, but the metaphor is used to emphasis how quickly everyone pulled out their lunches from seemingly nowhere.

After Scout has to explain to Miss Caroline that her classmate doesn't have money for lunch, the class erupts into a "storm of laughter" (pg. 20) when the teacher smacks Scout's hands with a ruler. This helps to describe the intensity and furousity of the sudden laughter.

Chapter Three:

Scout tells Atticus about her school day and her wish to quit school. When teaching Scout a trick to get along with others better, he says:

“-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (pg. 30)

By this, he means to look at things in someone else's point of view to gain a better understanding in an effort to get along with people better. 

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A metaphor is a literary device that makes a hidden comparison between two seemingly unrelated things, which subtly resemble one another. In chapter 3, Burris Ewell makes several derogatory remarks directed at Miss Caroline after she tells him to take a bath. After Burris leaves, Miss Caroline begins to cry, and the class attempts to console her. Scout recalls the class saying,

"He was a real mean one... below the belt... you ain’t called on to teach folks like that..." (Lee, 19).

"Below the belt" is a common idiom (similar to a metaphor) for fighting unfairly. Essentially, the students are telling Miss Caroline that Burris's words were unfair, harsh, and hurtful.

Lee utilizes a more clear-cut metaphor in chapter 3 when Atticus gives Scout an important life lesson concerning perspective. Atticus tells Scout,

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it" (Lee, 20).

Increasing one's perspective is metaphorically compared to climbing into person's skin and walking around in it.

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A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something in common. The first person style of writing gives the novel a wonderful format in which to use imagery.  The novel To Kill A Mockingbirdis full of literary elements like metaphors and similes.  Harper Lee was a very image heavy author.  Her imagery makes one feel like they were truly going through the story with Scout, Jem, Aticus and the rest of the characters. Ms. Lee was once asked about her beautiful style of writing and whether or not she would ever write another novel.  She is quoted as saying that she said everything she had to say in To Kill A Mockingbird.

In the first chapter of To Kill A Mockingbird there is a statement make by Scout.  She says,

"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it." pg 11

Later in the same chapter Jem tells Dill,

"Lord, what a name." "your name's longer than you are.  Bet it;s a foot longer."

Later in the same chapter one Scout describes Mr. Radley with a metaphor;

"He was a thin leathery with colorless eyes, so colorless they did not reflect light." (pg18)

At the end of the first chapter Scout describes the Radley house;

"The old house was the same, droopy and sick, but as we stared down the street we thought we saw an inside shutter move.  Flick. A tiny, almost invisible movement, and the house was still."

These are just a couple of the myriad of metaphors in the novel

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