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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What similes does Scout use in To Kill a Mockingbird and what do they refer to?

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In describing the sick, addicted, and dying Mrs. Dubose, to whom Jem has been given the assignment by Atticus of reading each afternoon, Scout employs original similes, to say the least:

She was horrible.  Her face was the color of a dirty pillowcase, and the corner of her mouth glistened with wet, which inched like a glacier down the deep grooves enclosing her chin.

 notices that Mrs. Dubose's corrections of Jem have become fewer and fewer.  And, something has happened, for only her head and shoulders are visible above her covers.  As her head moves from side to side, Scout sees saliva collecting on her lips:

Her mouth seemed to have a private existence of its own.  It worked separate and apart from the rest of her, out and in, like a clam hole at low tide.

Occasionally it would say, "Pt," like some viscous substance coming to a boil.

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One simile I recall is when Aunt Alexandra comes to live with the Finches. She seems to know everything about every family’s history and makes judgments of families often referencing their ancestor’s similar tendencies. She knows the people of Maycomb, fits into the culture effortlessly, almost immediately becomes a part of the Ladies Missionary Society and the Maycomb Amanuensis Club. Scout describes her as seeming as if she had always lived there. The simile used to describe Aunt Alexandra’s transition back into Maycomb life is, “Aunt Alexandra fitted into the world of Maycomb like a hand in a glove, but never into the world of Jem and me.”

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Examples of similes used by Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird:

  • "He was as good as his worst performance."--Scout's description of Dill's acting skills (Chapter 4).
  • "The tire bumped on gravel, skeetered... and popped me like a cork onto pavement."--Scout's description of her tire ride onto the Radley property (Chapter 4).
  • "He's as old as you, nearly."--Scout describing Walter Cunningham as compared to brother Jem (Chapter 3).
  • "She looked and smelled like a peppermint drop."--Scout describing Miss Caroline (Chapter 2). 
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As I look through the book, the first simile that I come to is in Chapter 1.  Here, Scout, as the narrator, is talking about the climate of Maycomb.  She says that ladies are "like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."  This is, of course, because it is so hot and humid there.

The next simile I come to refers to Dill.  She says that his hair sticks to his head "like duckfluff."

A third simile used by Scout comes in Chapter 2.  The teacher is reading them a long story and the kids are getting bored.  Soon, they are "wriggling like a bucketful of catawba worms."

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A simile is a figure of speech in which you compare two different things using the words "as," or "like." Good examples would be "as strong as an ox," or "like a bull in a china shop." Scout comes up with many wonderful similes in To Kill a Mockingbird. One of my own personal favorites is the colorful way she describes the ladies of Maycomb:

[The ladies] were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

This particular simile says a lot about the strenuous efforts of Maycomb's female population to appear ladylike and refined in the midst of the intense summer heat.

Then there's Scout's vivid description of Mrs. Dubose, the mean old lady who always yells at Scout and Jem each time they walk past her house. There's something appropriately cold and hard about the simile that Scout uses to describe the old woman, which perfectly captures her icy demeanor:

She was horrible. Her face was the color of a dirty pillowcase, and the corner of her mouth glistened with wet, which inched like a glacier down the deep grooves enclosing her chin.

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There are a couple of similes in chapter 8 during the fire at Miss Maudie's.  When looking at the fire, Scout says to Jem,

"Jem, it looks like a pumpkin."

Here the house in flames is being compared to a big orange pumpkin.  Then in narration she says right after that,

"Smoke was rolling off our house and Miss Rachel's house like fog off a riverbank..."

This comparison is between smoke and fog.  One other comparison is the snowman that they made in that same chapter.  Scout says,

"He looks like Stephanie Crawford with her hands on her hips.  Fat in the middle and little-bitty arms."

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What are similes and metaphors in To Kill a Mockingbird?

A particularly striking simile can be seen when Scout says that her new teacher, Miss Caroline, looks and smells "like a peppermint drop." This is a wonderful simile, as it highlights just how much Miss Caroline wants to make an impression on her first day in her new job.

She's clearly gone to a lot of trouble sprucing herself up that morning, making sure she smells nice and is dressed immaculately. Such a shame, then, that the fragrant, well-dressed young schoolmarm should have her day ruined by the thriving colony of cooties that lives on Burris Ewell's head.

Then we have this wonderful metaphor, which aptly describes the town of Maycomb:

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

Towns are not human, of course, and so they can't literally be tired. But that's where metaphors come in. By applying the word "tired" to something to which it is not literally applicable—in this case, the town of Maycomb—this metaphor gives us a more than accurate description of what the town is like, especially from the perspective of a young girl like Scout.

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What are similes and metaphors in To Kill a Mockingbird?

In the first chapter, Scout uses a variety of metaphors and similes and the narrator to help readers relate to the characters.

For example, in describing Dill she says:

"... his hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duckfluff"

The comparison of color to snow white and not just regular white or eggshell white can function as a metaphor. The comparison of his hair to duckfluff is a simile.

In describing Boo Radley, Scout narrates:

"When people's azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work. Once the town was terrorized by a series of morbid nocturnal events: people's chickens and household pets were found mutilated; although the culprit was Crazy Addie, who eventually drowned himself in Barker's Eddy, people still looked at the Radley Place, unwilling to discard their initial suspicions."

These descriptors of Boo develop an extended metaphor comparing a reclusive man to a terrible phantom.

Of the Radley's pecans that fell into the school yard, Scout compares them to poison in the metaphor:

"Radley pecans would kill you."

Scout used a simile to describe Dill's obsession with the Radley Place. She compared his longing for the place to the ability the moon has to get a shine from water in the dark of night.

"The Radley Place fascinated Dill. In spite of our warnings and explanations it drew him as the moon draws water..."

All of these metaphors and simile are in the first chapter.

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What are some similes in To Kill A Mockingbird?

A simile is a form of figurative language used by an author to create a more vivid impression—which might be visual, or aural, or sensory—of the scene being presented in the text. It is different to a metaphor in that the thing being described is not presented as another thing, but is simply compared to another thing, usually using the words "as" or "like." An example would be saying that somebody's face shone like the sun, which would convey a sort of inner light or happiness emanating from someone. In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, this type of figurative language is used from time to time, because it fits well with the relatively colloquial style of the narration. It is fairly usual for similes to be used in regular speak, as when Jem reports how Stephanie Crawford had thought Boo Radley's head "like a skull looking at her."

An example of a simile which engages more senses than just one can be found in the description of Miss Caroline, who "looked and smelled like a peppermint drop."

Later, we find this very evocative simile: "By the time Mrs. Cat called the drugstore for an order of
chocolate malted mice the class was wriggling like a bucketful of catawba worms." This simile creates a sense of the atmosphere in the classroom, conveying the attitude of the pupils and also their general restlessness.

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What are some similes in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Similes seem to come easily to Scout, as many Southern colloquialisms often contain the words like or as in forming a comparison between two unlike people or things.

--In the opening chapter, Scout describes Maycomb ladies as being "like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum." (Ch. 1)

--In what seems an odd comparison for Scout to make after having been punished by Miss Caroline, Scout remarks about her, "She looked and smelled like a peppermint drop." (Ch. 2)

--Scout observes that while Miss Caroline reads a story to the class, some of the kids are "wriggling like a bucketful of catawba worms." (Catawba worms crawl across certain tree leaves, consuming the leaves at a mad pace.) (Ch.2)

--Of Mrs. Dubose, Scout says,

Her mouth seemed to have a private existence of its own. It worked separate and apart from the rest of her, out and in, like a clam hole at low tide. (Ch. 8)

--Ever the gentleman, Atticus tips his hat to Mrs. Dubose whenever he passes her house and she is outside.

"Good evening, Mrs. Dubose! You look like a picture this evening."

--After Jem retaliates against Mrs. Dubose for her insults to him, his father learns what has happened. As he stands at the hat rack in the hall, Atticus calls harshly to Jem. After hearing him say her brother's name, Scout remarks, "His voice was like the winter wind."

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What are some similes in To Kill A Mockingbird?

A simile is a comparison between two typically unlike things (using either "like" or "as" to create the comparison). For example, the sun is like a golden coin is a simile because it compares the sun to a coin. Another example, this time using "as"," is: she face is as bright as the sun. Here, a girl's face is being compared to the sun.

In regards to chapter ten, of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, three similes can be found.

"Jem gulped like a goldfish." Here, Jem's gulping is compared to the gulping of a goldfish.

"We could see him shiver like a horse shedding flies." Here, Tim Johnson, the rabid dog, action of shivering is being compared to that of a horse.

"He walked quickly, but I thought he moved like an underwater swimmer." Here, Atticus' pace towards Tim Johnson is being described as slow--like the pace of a swimmer underwater.

That said, one cannot simply look for the words "like" or "as" to find a simile. Sometimes, the words are used as descriptives (meaning they are describing something and not being used in a comparison).

For example, “Atticus is a gentleman, just like me" is not a simile. Jem is not comparing himself to something; instead, he is describing himself as a gentleman.

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