Character Development in To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a story of a girl named Scout Finch and her friends who live in a town called Maycomb County, in the racially charged atmosphere of the early 1960s. Her mother is deceased, and her and her brother are cared for by Calpurnia, an African American housekeeper and Her father, Atticus, is a lawyer who takes on a case defending a black man accused of rape, and he confronts the racist justice system of the Depression-era South. Scout, Jem, and Atticus are three characters who develop in the story and advance the themes in TKAM.

Scout Finch helps develop the story in many ways. Throughout the novel she matures and gains more self control. She shows ignorance in the book when she says Jem, i ain’t ever heard of a [negro] snowman (Lee 75). She had heard so many people around her use it and thought it was the common way to address black people. Several incidents in the novel force Scout to confront her beliefs. I Towards the end of the book, it shows how Scout has matured, I sometimes felt a twinge of remorse, when passing by the old place, at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment for Arthur Radley (Lee 277). She sees boo radley at the end as her friend not a monster, and walks him home holding his hand as reassurance. He had just killed a man to save her life and now she is his guide and friend. This is one of many implications of her growing maturity and the drastic effects it had on herself and the others around her. By the end of the novel, she has lost much of her innocence, Scout gains insight into her town, her family, and herself. As she matures she grew outside herself to view the world around her with new eyes, she sees things other than herself and views the experiences of others, and how her actions affect them, instead of just what affects her and what she has to do for herself.

Jem Finch also changes throughout the story. At first, he is very childish and defiant. During the first summer in the book, Jem came up with a game pretending to be Boo Radley and the family. Making fun of their family drama. When Atticus caught them, Jem did not care He still maintained, however, that Atticus hadn’t said we couldn’t, therefore we could; and if Atticus ever said we couldn’t, Jem had thought of a way around it (Lee 46). In other words, even though they had been scolded by Atticus and told to stop playing the game, Jem did not care and continued playing it. But as the book goes on, he starts to develop empathy for the people he had made fun of. When they put cement in the tree Jem freaks out and says he’s crazy, i reckon, like they say, but Atticus, i swear to God he ain’t ever harmed us, he ain’t ever hurt us, he coulda cut my throat from ear to ear that night but he tried to mend my pants instead (Lee 81). At the trial, Scout and Jem sneak in and sit with the black spectators, even though Atticus forbade them from attending. Jem is heavily affected by what happens at the trial and this trial opens up his view to the wrongdoings of others and how African Americans are unjustly treated in his hometown. This view has come from a newfound maturity that has developed throughout the story. Seeing the injustice and oppression of Tom Robinson shows the level he has grown to and how he went from childish games of making others look bad, to recognizing the injustice of his own kind.When he is attacked by Bob Ewell he doesn’t want revenge, he just wants to be able to play football. He, like scout, realizes his childish ways and sees that the world around him isnt as good as he thought. He changes a little faster than Scout and helps develop the story that way.

The final person we can see change in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird is Atticus. Throughout the story he remains ethical and honest, he knows the difference between right and wrong and helps Jem and Scout know it too. He is risking his life to defend a black man, something that was looked down upon. When scout asks him if he defends negroes, he says Of course i do, don’t say [negro], Scout. That’s common. (Lee 85). He tries to help Scout understand that some things shouldn’t be said. As the trial for Tom Robinson starts and goes on, Atticus remains hopeful and doesn’t lose confidence, even once the trial is over and Tom is arrested he doesn’t lose hope. Atticus assured us that nothing would happen to Tom Robinson until the higher court reviewed his case, and that Tom had a good chance of going free (Lee 250). But once he finds out that Tom was killed, trying to escape, his optimism disappears. The front door slammed and i heard Atticus’s footsteps in the hall.. He stopped in the doorway. His hat was in his hand, and his face was white seventeen bullet holes in him. They didn’t have to shoot that much (Lee 268). He lost his hope and was distressed by what had happened. Throughout the trial he showed that he thought they were going to win and Tom wouldn’t be punished. When Tom dies Atticus realized that what he had done wouldn’t have made a difference. Throughout the book, Atticus, represents morality and justice, but we start to see the effect of his struggle to stay purely good in a compromised world.

Several characters in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ showed change, but these three impact the story the most. Scout and Jem mature and realize things about their town they hadn’t before, and Atticus almost loses himself in the trial for Tom Robinson. The story shows that for all three of these characters, one person cannot truly understand another without first stepping into his or her shoes. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a powerful story and every character helps to develop it.

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