IGCSE English Literature, Paper 1: Drama and Prose
Who In your opinion is the most memorable character in the novel? Explain your answer fully.
In the novel: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, there are a wide range of diverse characters. These include Arthur Radley or ‘Boo’ whose descriptions range from him being a malevolent phantom to being a real life hero! Other important characters include Tom Robinson whose fate was sealed the moment Mayella accused him of rape and Mrs Dubose who Atticus Finch describes as ‘The bravest woman he ever knew’.
Despite these important roles in the novel, I have chosen Scout/ Jean Louise Finch as being the most memorable character in my opinion. From the very beginning of the book we are aware of her presence. Scout’s character narrates the novel as an adult who is looking back upon her childhood. As a child Scout would have viewed situations in a different light to that of her elders. Despite her age though, Scout displays maturity in parts of the novel.
Scout’s character is used as a tool by Harper Lee to show us a variety of different things. These include the school system. Maycomb county, being a small town, does not have the best education. Scout’s teacher is angry that Atticus has allowed Scout to read despite the fact he never actually set out to teach her. Scout’s experience in school is a life lesson for her, it demonstrates the hard fact that life is not always fair.
In Scout’s school we learn more about the class system and social standings within the area. When a boy called Walter Cunningham has no lunch. Scout tries to explain why he will not accept money, as can be seen in the following;
‘But Miss, he’s a Cunningham’
Because Atticus has explained to Scout that the Cunninghams have no money and therefore will not accept what they cannot pay back, Scout thinks she is being helpful, however she learns a lesson when she is rewarded with being ‘patted with a ruler’.
Scout’s character in the novel shows us how to look at things with a childlike innocence, when the mob turn up outside Tom Robinson’s cell, Jem is trying to protect Atticus by refusing to leave. It is actually Scout who unintentionally protects Atticus despite being oblivious to this at the time. Scout strikes up a conversation with Mr Cunningham, then his human side takes over from mob mentality and he sends the rest of the mob home.
The simplicity of Scout’s world sh0ws us a lot of things. Despite her brother already being indoctrinated with southern prejudices as can be seen below:-
‘There are 4 types of people in the world. Normal folks like us and the neighbours – farm folk like the Cunninghams; those like the Ewells down at the dump and the Negroes’
Scout shows a much more unbiased view, she does not really know why the people at Calpurnia’s church are different and when people say her father is a ‘nigger lover’ she does not know what it means, just that the person said it as if it were a terrible insult.
The relationship Scout has with Calpurnia shows us many things about Scout, Calpurnia, Atticus and Atticus’s sister. Scout respects Calpurnia and Atticus allows Calpurnia to discipliine Scout like a mother would, however Aunt Alexandra views Calpurnia as a lower class citizen and does not feel it is healthy that she is raising Scout.
Another thing that makes Scout’s character important, aside from the fact she is learning and growing throughout the book are her relationships. Scout has a typical brother/sister relationship with her brother Jem. She feels typical emotions of being ignored when Jem is growing older. She also feels anger and sadness when Jem destroys her toy baton and when he will not tell her why he is crying.
Another relationship involving Scout in the novel is her relationship with Dill. Dill is adventurous and without his curiousity, Boo would have never been as high on Scout’s radar. Dill and Scout are very close; they want to get married when they are older. Scout demonstrates loyalty when she attacks her cousin for calling Dill names and friendship when she hides him underneath her bed.
The most important of Scout’s relationships is her friendship with Boo Radley, despite not knowing it. Scout first discovered his knot hole gifts, received a blanket from him during the fire and finally had her life saved by him. Scout manages to see that Arthur is not a monster and when her father spares him the public attention of it being known that he saved Scout from Mr Ewell. She identifies with it as can be seen below:-
‘It would be kind of like killing a Mockingbird wouldn’t it Atticus?’
Scout uses the Mockingbird metaphor, which can be applied to both Tom Robinson and Boo Radley in the novel; she is the only character to do this in the novel, making her all the more memorable. Atticus had told her earlier in the book, not to shoot these birds because they never do anything wrong, they just make music.
Scout’s own views of Atticus changes a great deal throughout the novel. Despite loving to read the newspaper with her father and wanting to know all about his job as a lawyer. Scout views Atticus’s talents as being academic alone, along with his knowledge of life. When Atticus shoots the rabid dog, Scout gains even more respect for Atticus. She had always thought that Atticus was unable to shoot a target successfully and that was why he didn’t shoot. When Scout discovers that Atticus chooses not to shoot, she doesn’t really know why.
As well as her empathy, innocence and eagerness to learn, Scout has other good attributes, however for me, one of the things that Scout added to the novel was a humourous element. As a writer, Harper Lee makes the novel more enjoyable by including humour. Scout’s misunderstandings and witty remarks help brighten a novel which deals with emotive subjects such as death and rape, lifting the tone and making a serious novel less depressing to read. This is one of the reasons I personally hold the feisty Scout as my own favourite character.
In conclusion, I think Jean Louise Finch, aka Scout, is the most memorable character in the novel for a variety of reasons, including her innocence and her understanding developing as she matures throughout the novel; her relationships with others, the fact her adult self narrates the novel and, of course, the humour that she adds to even the most moving scenes of the play. Harper Lee lets the reader grow to love Scout and only a good author can do this.