SCOUT: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD CHARACTER ANALYSIS
Scout Finch is the narrator and protagonist in the novel: To Kill a Mockingbird. A story of strong contemporary national significance. Scout is the daughter of Mr. Atticus Finch, a lawyer in a small town in the United States. Scout’s original name is Jean Louise Finch. However, the characters in the novel prefer to call her Scout because of her personality. The novel opens when Scout is only six years old. From Scout’s experiences as a child, the novelist Harper Lee is able to relay and critique the extent of social and racial division in society. Throughout the novel we see the transition of Scout, from the naive and violent girl to how she matures and understands the world better.
The novel initially presents Scout as a tomboy, whose problems are only solved through fighting. On her first day in school, she goes after Walter Cunningham and beats him up.
Scout is also fearless; she hits a member of a lynch mob that had come for Tom.
At some point, she fights Dill for not paying attention to her. This is what she says about Dill:
“He had asked me earlier in the summer to marry him, then he promptly forgot about it. He staked me out, marked as his property, said I was the only girl he would ever love, then he neglected me.”
That was a strange and unexpected form of affection from Scout. Dill wants to marry Scout, but it doesn’t mean that he wants to spend his time with her. This is because of her physical strength, which also intimidates most of the boys in her school. However, she consistently rejects the notion that women are a form of property throughout the novel.
Mr. Finch gets concerned about the violent nature of Scout. He talks to her and asks her to seek other ways of solving disagreements. She respects and obeys her father and behaves for three weeks. She clearly describes a situation in which she was expected to fight, but opted to obey her father:
“I drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped my fist and walked away, “Scout’s a coward!” ringing in my ears. It was the first time I ever walked away from a fight. Somehow, if I fought Cecil, I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem and me to do something for him. I could take being called a coward for him. I felt extremely noble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks.”
Scout cares about her father; she would instead be called names than disappoint her father. This is progress in her life. Even though she is a child, her perspective about life has improved from that of a naïve girl to that of a near grown-up. She realizes that there is nobility in not having to fight when provoked as it serves a much higher goal.
As a tomboy, Scout Flinch gets numerous criticism from society, including her brother, Jem. People expect her to be gentle, tender, and love dolls. Despite the presence of the housekeeper, Calpurnia, her mother is not present in her life to teach her the ways of living as a girl. Her auntie Alexandra who joins them, to assist, she really pushes Scout hard. She takes away all her pants and dresses her up. Scout finds it hard to play and run while in a dress. She really hated the stereotypical girly things, she recalls in the novel:
“I felt the starched walls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on me, and for the second time in my life I felt of running away.”
Scout also has her limits in acting as a boy, for example, Jem and Dill spend their afternoons going naked swimming, Scout is left to spend the time with Calpurnia, the housekeeper, and Miss Maudie, the no-nonsense neighbor. Through her time with Miss Maudie, Scout gets more confidence, for instance, when a neighbor ridiculed her for wearing pants, Scout recalls,
“Miss Maudie’s hands closed tightly on mine, and I said nothing. Its warmth was enough”
Scout, through her intelligence, is able to make connections and conclusions on what happens in society. Intelligence, curiosity, and drive both emanate from her father, Mr. Atticus, Scout’s father trains her to be empathetic to people. He says in chapter three that:
“You’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
A significant event in Scout’s development is seen in the growth of her relationship with Boo Radley. Scout thinks about Boo a lot. She is initially very scared about the guy due to the horror stories told by Dill and Jem: “Every night sound I heard from my cot on the back of the porch was magnified three-fold; every scratch of feet on gravel was Boo Radley seeking revenge, every passing negro laughing in the night was Boo Radley loose and after us; insects splashing against the screen where Boo Radley’s insane fingers picking the wire to pieces; the chinaberry trees were malignant, hovering, alive.“
The stories about Boo made her think more about him, and as the story progresses, she gets interested in the real personality of Boo. Scout later understands that Boo Radley is not a monster after the unfair and untimely death of Tom Robinson. Unlike Boo Radley, she sees the real evil, prejudice, and malice in people.
Boo Radley saves Scout’s and Jem’s lives, and the experience makes her realize that some of her convictions about the world were not really true. By the end of the story, Scout becomes quite mature for her age. She in fact, says:
“Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sicknesses and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.“
Atticus is Scout’s teacher for both the values and morals that she needs for life. The teachings eventually shape Scout into a mature young adult. She says,
“I thought Jem and I would be grown, but there wasn’t much else for us to learn except possibly algebra.”
From the above, you can see how mature Scout has become. She knows that knowledge learned in school, such as algebra, is essential, but not the same way as lessons that can be implemented in every facet of life.
It is clear that Scout does not get much from school; she gets most of her education from her father to the extent of her teacher telling her that:
“Now tell your father not to teach you anymore. It’s best to begin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him that I will try to take over from here and try to undo the damage.”
Instead of celebrating the fact that Scout knows how to read, her teacher is appalled. Scout is bored as she has to wait for the other pupils in the class to get to her academic level.
The Tom Robinson case shatters her beliefs and forces her to rethink her attitudes. She gets to know that even though there is a high capacity for evil in humanity, there’s also a significant aspect and need to be a good person. She sees how her father is ready to defend the black American from the rape charges despite the criticism that he gets for taking the case. The aspect of being kind can easily be controlled through empathy.
Scout Flinch, at a very young age, is very familiar with her environments and aspects such as social justice, diplomacy, and the superiority of intelligence and wisdom over physical strength. She improves on mastering her emotions and using her head rather than her physical strength.
In a nutshell, the four years of Scout’s life in the novel portray a significant transition of a girl from being a tomboy who is ready to fight whenever she is provoked to a girl who realizes the objections of the world. Scout comes into terms with her gender after witnessing great examples of positive femininity from her Aunt Alexandra and the rough and rude Miss Maudie. An important lesson that Scout incorporates in her life is the need to try and walk into someone else’s shoes. Her father, Atticus, teaches her the significance of looking into things from the other person’s viewpoint very early in the story. At the end of the story, Scout is able to put herself in the shoes of an individual that she feared most, Boo Radley’s. Definitely, it gets hard for Scout to wrap her mind around everything that happens in her life. However, she makes the right conclusions about life and society at the end of the novel.