Harper Lee writes the novel To Kill a Mockingbird from the retrospective view of a young Scout who narrates the events from her childish view. This allows for a more impartial interpretation as she is still developing her beliefs of right and wrong and so will lack the more biased view of an adult. The character of Scout helps point out the key themes of prejudice and social expectations, whilst exploring the idea of growth and maturity as well as the difference between what a person appears to be and what they really are. The most prominent asset of Scouts character, her nativity, allows the author a way to subtly rebel against aspects of Southern Society.Harper Lee uses Scout’s naivety to satirize Southern prejudice.
Within the mob scene of the episodic novel, Scout looks for a familiar face and finds Mr. Cunningham. Scout says “I go to school with Walter”, her innocence and unprejudiced courage diffuses the situation. Harper Lee has her address Mr. Cunningham to demonstrate the crowds making of farmers and town folk, people they live with, to emphasize how a mob mentality may not be the opinion of the individual. Her mention of his “entailment” to her father is comical in that it would cause an embarrassment to Mr. Cunningham.
Harper Lee through Scout’s experiences in school debases the Dewy Decimal System of education to support conformity rather than brilliance. Scout is chastised by Mrs Caroline who regards her literacy with “distaste” and states “we don’t learn to write in the first grade, we print”. Lee demonstrates aversion to the system by pointing out how it restricts children from excelling. The sarcasm of “received these impressionistic revelations in silence” is a deliberate demeaning of the system as it highlights how basic the teaching is and inappropriate in the sense that with young children, in particular, learning is done through interaction and communication. Scout serves as a bridge for the author to relay to her readers her importance given to education that allows people to excel rather than conform to a general societal level.A following encounter with the education system sheds light on the hypocrisies of Southern society. Scout’s teacher speaks of “prejudice” within Germany towards the Jews and says that there is none in America, however just after the court ruling, Scout overheard her saying how in reference to the negroes “someone needed to finally puts them in their place”. The author presents this comparison between two societies in which within both is an obvious prejudice to point out the blindness of a society to their own mistakes but willingness to point out someone else’s.
The teacher further speaks of how the Jews “contribute to every society they live in” and are “deeply religious people”. Both these qualities can be found within the black community which further reinforces this ‘blindness’. Through Scout, Harper Lee is able to point out the duplicity and encourages the reader to reflect upon their own actions.Scouts observations reveal the distinction between appearance and reality. At the beginning of the novel the reader is given the impression that Boo Radley is a “malevolent Phantom” due to his isolation, with negative connotations that provoke a psychological unrest, as the story develops Boo Radleys benevolent nature is demonstrated by his knot-hole gifts in the form of “two pieces of chewing gum”. Similarly a miss judgment is made of Atticus by the children in thinking he is weak and old with “grey hairs” starting to appear followed by showing he is quite capable when he shoots the rabid dog and has the name of “one shot Finch”, however it is his modest manners and gentlemanliness that gain most respect from his community and Scout acknowledges this when she states that her father is “the bravest man that ever lived” after a meeting with the accusatory Mrs Dubose.