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To Kill A Mockingbird – Advantages and Disadvantages of a Child Narrator May 2, 2009

Posted by KJ theBookGirl in Analysis, Essay, Harper Lee, Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird.
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To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird is written from the point of view of Scout, sometimes this is an “older” Scout, who is looking back on the events and can give a lot more detail or understanding upon a certain event. Usually, however, it is a “young” Scout, who is the age that she is during that event.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to the narration of the young Scout, and either way, Harper Lee has managed to overcome to disadvantages and work with the advantages extremely well, as shown in the popularity of the novel.

A clear advantage is that we understand things as Scout understands them, and things are explained to us when they are to Scout. For example, Atticus and Jem have to teach her the rules and customs of Maycomb regularly, which a reader who isn’t from this small town in Alabama may not know (such as, screen doors only shut when there is illness, the Radley tree having “poison” fruit, the boundaries where Scout and Jem can play, the white society’s views on the black community).

Also when Scout experiences things for the first time, the reader does too, and gets a full description, such as in chapter 12 when Jem and Scout have to go to Cal’s church and they learn about how only 4 of the congregation can read, and that Zeebo, the garbage collector is the vicar. They also experience the bitterness some members of the black community have for the white community such as Lula.

Another advantage is that because the story is told when Scout IS that age, the reader can really get into the story and understand how Scout perceives everything, whilst appreciating how perceptive she is and also noticing the things she is ignorant of, which can explain many attitudes people had to the black community.

A further advantage is how so often Scout can be juxtar posed with other characters who are stereotypical, racist or otherwise less moral than Scout. These characters are usually older than Scout and have much more power and influence, showing the reader the general problems with the older generations being biased and prejudiced and therefore harming the “Mockingbirds”.

Scout is also a fairly neutral character as she doesn’t have any of this prejudice and this means the reader is able to see the events as they truly happened, as young Scout does not prejudice about the things that happen in her thoughts as she is still learning and hasn’t had enough experience to even think about discriminating as the main influence she has is of her father who is also a very moral man.

Also, the use of foreboding and metaphor through Scout’s childhood games and minor experiences means that the more significant events (such as the verdict of the court case) can be seen as it really is, and Scout can learnt to see it from an easier way of understanding it. 

The only disadvantages I can see are that Scout can become confused and her loss at what is going on can possibly confuse the reader as it isn’t that clear compared to how it could be if a maturer narrator was used. 

Also there isn’t so much force or power of emotion during the discrimination during as an older narrator has. Personally, I prefer to really feel how the characters feel, but Scout doesn’t always understand fully and therefore feel fully the consequences of the prejudices. 

In conclusion there are far more advantages in this case of having a young narrator, but these are only applicable because Harper Lee has managed to portray it well; in a very high quality narration.

KJ 
theBookGirl KJ

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