How does Scout View the World: Innocence and Reality in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

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Updated: Aug 09, 2023
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From Innocence to Insight: Scout and Jem’s Transformation in Maycomb

The novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, set in the 1930s in the southern town of Maycomb, explores many important issues, some of which as still present today. The story is told from the perspective of a six-year-old girl nicknamed Scout, who lives with her brother, Jem, and her dad, Atticus, who is a lawyer. When Atticus is hired to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, Scout, and her family have their world turned upside down.

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At the beginning of the story, both Scout and Jem start off with an idealistic view of life and a normal childhood, but as the trial unfolds, that is taken away from them as they are forced to face and accept the harsh realities of life. In the end, this novel reveals that people often lose their childhood innocence when they learn about the harsh truths of the world.

Challenging the System: Scout’s Disillusionment with Formal Education

At the beginning of the story, Scout starts school optimistic and ready to learn, but that is quickly shattered when she faces Mrs. Caroline. When Scout reads the alphabet, Mrs. Caroline is upset, not as impressed as Scout’s surprise, as stated in the quote,¨Mrs. Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me anymore. It would interfere with my reading (Lee, 22).¨ This reveals Mrs. Caroline’s naive beliefs that her students should not be able to learn faster than others and that they can’t learn without help. Even while Scout tries to dispute this, Mrs. Caroline shuts her down, which shows her pride in her teaching methods and likely that she doesn’t want someone to challenge them. Then, Mrs. Caroline said,¨ It’s best to begin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him I’ll take over from here and try to undo the damage (Lee, 23).¨ This shows that she likely feels threatened by Scout’s abilities proving her teaching methods wrong. After this experience, Scout’s view of school becomes much more negative. These examples show an early example of a loss of innocence in Scout’s life as she loses her idealistic view of learning and school when faced with Mrs. Crawford’s methods and learns the harsh reality that there are people who believe what they do is the correct way to doing things even if it’s wrong or unfair.

Perceptions Altered: How Scout and Jem’s View of Justice Reflects Their Changing Views on Atticus

Next, Jem has a loss of innocence when he realizes the judicial system he believed in was flawed and had racial prejudice. Jem begins to lose his innocence when he experiences the hateful remarks targeted towards Atticus for defending Tom Robinson and racial prejudice against Tom Robinson. Despite this, he remained confident in the jury and the evidence provided by Atticus during the trial. However, Jem’s spirit is broken when the verdict is announced, as stated in the quote,” It was Jem’s turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the crowd.” It ain’t right,” he muttered (Lee 284).” This quote describes Jem’s horror at the verdict, which has shattered his faith not only in the justice system but in people, and despite his denial, the harsh reality dawns on him. Later, when Scout questions Jem over the racial hypocrisy of her teacher Mrs. Gates supporting Jews but being prejudiced towards blacks, Jem is quoted as saying,” I never want to hear about that courthouse again, ever. Do you hear me? Don’t say one word again, you hear? No, go on (Lee 331)!” This shows Jem’s bitterness over the trial and his struggle to adjust to the harsh reality that not only can the justice system be unfair but life as well. Thus, he wants to shut the trial out of his world and is quickly angered when Scout reminds him of it. These quotes show Jem’s loss of innocence because he experiences the harsh reality of the justice system and life in general and his struggle to adjust to it.

Throughout the novel, many of the central characters have their innocence taken away from them when they are faced with situations that make them realize the harsh reality of life. Specifically, this is revealed through Scout, who is forced to accept school is not everything she wants it to be when faced with Mrs. Caroline, who thinks Scout’s reading ability is a bad thing. Next, Jem, who throughout the novel was confident that Tom Robinson would be innocent, is traumatized by the result and forced to accept life isn’t fair even if you want it to be. These examples further show that one shouldn’t go into something with an innocent mindset like Scout and Jem, or it will be quickly shattered.

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How Does Scout View the World: Innocence and Reality in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. (2023, Aug 09). Retrieved from