Why is Scout the narrator in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Scout is the narrator for several reasons. First, Scout has a child's innocent perspective. More than the adults in her life, she sees people as people, not as "black" or "white." She is not invested in maintaining the social hierarchy. Therefore, in her naive telling, she is able to expose...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Scout is the narrator for several reasons. First, Scout has a child's innocent perspective. More than the adults in her life, she sees people as people, not as "black" or "white." She is not invested in maintaining the social hierarchy. Therefore, in her naive telling, she is able to expose the racism of Maycomb without having to justify it or rationalize it. It is simply wrong to condemn an innocent man for rape because he happens to be black, and through Scout's eyes that moral point of view stands out all the more sharply.

Second, the book is also about how a child is formed through the example of a parent. Scout and Jem (and the reader) learn valuable life lessons because Atticus is such a wise and exemplary human being. They learn to be tolerant and even empathize with nasty people like Mrs. Dubose; they learn to be modest about innate talents, such as Atticus is about being a sharpshooter; and they learn that it is important to do the right thing, even if public opinion turns against you. Much of the book is about a young girl's hero worship of her father and a hymn of praise to that father. It would be much harder to convey that from an adult perspective.

Third, the book is partially autobiographical, and making Scout the main character allows Harper Lee to tell stories of her own childhood, adding an important layer of realism to the novel and acting as a counterweight to lighten some of the gravity of the central drama.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Scout is the narrator because having a child tell the story adds an element of interest and makes it a coming of age story.

Harper Lee used a child narrator because it allows for additional layers to the text.  The Scout that is telling the story is not the child Scout, but an adult version.  In this way, she can look back on how she felt as a child but also have the understanding of an adult.

Child narrators are known as unreliable narrators.  An unreliable narrator tells things from a slanted perspective.  We also consider narrators who are reflecting back over time unreliable.  Scout seems to have two marks against her.  However, as a narrator Scout is very entertaining.  She is humorous, precocious, and insightful.

Scout is the perfect narrator for this story because she is Atticus Finch’s daughter.  This gives her inside information on the trial, but also allows us to follow the Boo Radley plot line.  In many ways, Boo Radley is directly connected to the events of the trial.  In this way, it is good to have Scout narrating because as she grows up she comes to better understand Boo Radley.

Boo Radley is important because he rescued Scout and Jem.  This is related to the Tom Robinson trial because the reason the children were in danger was that Bob Ewell was angry at Atticus. If we had not had Scout’s perspective on Boo Radley as she was growing up, this incident would not be as meaningful.

Scout is the narrator instead of Jem because she is younger.  This makes her coming of age and growing consciousness more interesting.  For example, Scout is afraid of Boo Radley for most of the book.  After he saves them, she looks back at her life from his perspective.

Summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him.

Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough. (Ch. 31)

Scout is an excellent narrator because she is genuine.  She is not lying to the reader or trying to sugar-coat things.  The Tom Robinson case was the trial of the century for Maycomb.  Reading about it from the point of view of a young girl who happens to be the daughter of the lawyer is a great touch.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team