Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How is To Kill a Mockingbird a novel about growth and maturation?

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Growth and maturation is examined and illustrated through Jem and Scout's moral development and broadened perspective on life throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. At the beginning of the novel, both Jem and Scout are portrayed as naive children, who fear their reclusive neighbor and are unaware of the extensive prejudice throughout the community of Maycomb. As the novel progresses, Atticus teaches his children important life lessons, which broaden their perspective on life and aid in their moral development. Scout learns the importance of viewing situations from other people's points of view, how to exercise tolerance, and the significance of standing up for one's beliefs. Jem and Scout learn the definition of "real courage" and the importance of protecting innocent beings. Also, Jem learns that Boo Radley is not a malevolent creature after having several indirect interactions with him.

In Part Two, Jem and Scout also lose their childhood innocence after witnessing the Tom Robinson trial. Jem becomes jaded with his prejudiced community of Maycomb and Scout becomes more aware of the blatant racism and hypocrisy in their community. Witnessing Tom's injustice makes Jem a more sympathetic young man, who fully understands the importance of protecting innocent beings, and he hopes to change the corrupt justice system when he grows older. Scout also matures and begins to recognize the true nature of her prejudiced community. She observes the hypocrisy in women like Mrs. Merriweather and Miss Gates, and also becomes a more sympathetic person. By the end of the novel, Scout no longer fears Boo Radley and realizes that he is simply a shy, compassionate man. Overall, Lee explores and illustrates the maturation and moral development of Jem and Scout throughout the novel.

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To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel of growth and maturation because it focuses on the coming of age of young Scout as she comes to understand the world.

An example of Scout’s maturation is her developing sense of empathy.  In the beginning of the book, she is about six years old.  She acts impertinent questions, such as when she drills Dill on where his father is, and insults people without realizing it, such as when she asks Walter what he is doing when he pours syrup on his dinner.

When Scout starts school, she has conflicts with her teacher.  Atticus explains that if she really wants to get along with people, she has to learn empathy.

"[If] you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. 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." (ch 3)

We see this development in Scout as she begins to walk away from fights, tries to understand changes in her brother Jem’s behavior, and tries to relate to Mr. Cunningham about a subject relevant to him when the mob confronts Atticus.

The first true sign of Scout’s maturity is when she...

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feels sympathy for Mayella Ewell during the trial.  On the surface, Mayella has caused her a lot of grief lately.  Yet when she hears about her life, Scout is able to walk around in Mayella’s skink.

As Tom Robinson gave his testimony, it came to me that Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the world. She was even lonelier than Boo Radley, who had not been out of the house in twenty-five years. (ch 19)

Scout’s realization about the true circumstances of Mayella’s life demonstrates that she is growing and maturing.  She has come to learn the skill of empathy, and can appreciate another person’s situation.

The coming of age theme weaves the two threads of Boo Radley and the trial together, as Scout comes to understand both Mayella and Boo.  She grows throughout the novel to a more and more adult view of the world and the people in it.

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