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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What quote shows that Scout is naive concerning racism?

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Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, the reader sees growth and change in Scout, the narrator of the story. She learns many lessons about school, what it takes to be a "lady," and rules about class and society. As her views on Boo Radley evolve, so does her understanding of racism. By the end of the story, Scout's experiences lead to a deeper understanding and awareness of what it means to be racist. However, one can argue that there are several quotes by Scout that show her naivety concerning racism. By examining these quotes, one can better understand how and why she may appear naive.

One of Scout's first encounters with racism occurs at school. She finds herself defending her father when Cecil Jacobs claims that Atticus "defended niggers." Scout clearly feels that Atticus has been insulted, yet she asks Jem, "What’d he mean sayin‘ that?" This demonstrates that Scout is unsure of exactly why Cecil's words are insulting.

Another example of how Scout shows that she is naive occurs when she is with her cousin, Francis. Francis refers to Atticus as a "nigger-lover." Again, Scout seems to understand enough that she should be upset, but she says, "I don’t know what you’re talkin‘ about, but you better cut it out this red hot minute!" Scout admits later to Uncle Jack that although she doesn't know what Francis means, it was "the way Francis said it" that upset her.

In chapter 12, Scout and Jem attend church with Calpurnia. After church, Scout asks, "Cal, can I come to see you sometimes?" Scout requests to visit Calpurnia at Calpurnia's home, and her question shows her naivety. Aunt Alexandra delivers an emphatic "You may not" when she hears of Scout's request. This provides evidence that Scout, according to Aunt Alexandra's rules, should know better than to make such a request. However, by doing so, Scout shows that she simply sees Calpurnia as she would see any other person. Unlike many in Maycomb County, she has not yet learned to be a racist.

During Tom Robinson's trial, Scout again displays her lack of knowledge when it comes to racism. As Tom is being questioned by Atticus, Scout admits that "Until my father explained it to me later, I did not understand the subtlety of Tom’s predicament." Scout has difficulty understanding why Tom would run away from Mayella and Mr. Ewell if he was innocent. Tom couldn't stop Mayella's advances because he didn't want to place his hands on her. It is only after Atticus explains the situation that Scout understands.

These examples show the innocence of a child that has not yet taken on the actions and beliefs of a racist community.

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