A Study of Scout Finch’s Innocence in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” is written from the point of view of the one and only Scout Finch. In this novel, Scout transforms in her innocence and becomes more aware of the differences in issues such as class and race that surround her. Stephen Metcalf points out in his article “Harper Lee’s to Kill a Mockingbird” that Scout’s innocence is “finally a near-flawless arbiter of right and wrong” (Metcalf, 2006). Scout’s ideas of the people around her are muddled by her experiences, and she soon finds herself understanding the rights and wrongs within the small town of Maycomb, Alabama.

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Scout Finch, the daughter of Atticus Finch, narrates the novel and gives the story from her perspective years later, as a grown woman. Within the memories she recalls, we catch glimpses of her innocence in moments where situations are brimming with issues of class and race. In the beginning, Scout starts school with a new teacher, Ms. Caroline. During a discussion about lunch arrangements, Miss Caroline attempts to give Walter Cunningham a quarter to buy lunch downtown, assuming he had forgotten his. Scout interrupts and says, “Walter’s one of the Cunninghams, Miss Caroline” (Lee, 20). Miss Caroline punishes her for speaking up, but in this moment, Scout’s innocence is displayed. While Miss Caroline might not be aware of the struggles of Walter’s family, Scout believes it is only right to inform her to prevent further embarrassment for Walter. Coming from a small town, most students were familiar with the socio-economic standing of the Cunningham family. Scout’s immediate response emanates from her innocence and sincerity to stop Miss Caroline from probing further into the situation.

As the novel unfolds, Scout, Dill, and Jem are in the courthouse listening to the case of Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson. In this case, Mayella has cried rape, which is not taken lightly. Tom Robinson’s defense is being handled by the town’s district attorney, Atticus Finch, who is Scout and Jem’s father. During the cross examination in the case, Scout and Dill leave the courthouse as Dill complains he is going to be sick. As they walk out, they come into contact with Mr. Dolphus Raymond, a local of Maycomb known to be “…in the clutches of whiskey…” (Lee,200). Raymond, not only seen as unsavory due to his drinking habits, but also known for his mixed race children, is widely criticized. Raymond mentions to Scout, “…Let him get a little bit older and he won’t get sick and cry. Maybe things will strike him as being not quite right.” (Lee, 201). However, defending his toughness, Dill responds, “Cry about what, Mr. Raymond?” (Lee, 201). Raymond continues to speak, most importantly noting, “Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think they’re people, too” (Lee, 201). Scout ponders this and replies with a statement her father had expressed to her: “Atticus says cheating a colored man is ten times worse than cheating a white man” (Lee, 201). Scout’s innocence in this moment is recognized by Raymond, and upon parting, he tells Scout, “…you haven’t seen enough of the world yet. You haven’t even fully seen this town, but all you have to do is step back inside the courthouse” (Lee,201). Raymond recognizes Scout’s innocence because she has yet to realize that while the racially charged hateful actions towards Tom in the courthouse are wrong, these same behaviors are also prevalent in their everyday life in Maycomb.

Scout’s apprehension of class and race-related issues serves as a measure of her innocence throughout the novel. This innocence, slowly peeling away, leads to her character development, bringing her closer to experiencing the loss of innocence. Scout’s experiences and encounters are not always pleasant, but they enable her to distinguish between right and wrong in Maycomb, Alabama.

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A Study of Scout Finch's Innocence in "To Kill a Mockingbird". (2023, Feb 04). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-study-of-scout-finchs-innocence-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird/