To Kill a Mockingbird: Innocence

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A songbird's melody can evoke happiness in anyone, as can the smiling face of a child. The mockingbird sings for the sake of singing, and an innocent child possesses an inborn joyfulness, as natural as instinct. Yet a mockingbird's song dies as easily as the innocence of a child. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout and Jem are portrayed as innocents, uncorrupted by our world of prejudice and racism. Their world is simple, sensible, a child's world. However, three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus, are consumed by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. By the end of the novel, their world has expanded to enclose the irrational nature of humans. Jem and Scout's growing up is portrayed by a series of events that shatters their innocence as easily as a mockingbird can be silenced. Lee uses a combination of insignificant and profound events: the trial of Tom Robinson, Walter Cunningham, and their relationship with Boo Radley to develop and display the children’s growth in maturity. One of the first cracks in Scout’s armour of naïveté occurs due to the fact that she speaks her mind. On Scout’s first day of school Scout tries to explain to her teacher that she is embarrassing Walter Cunningham by offering him something that he will not be able to pay back. Scout realizes that because her teacher is not a local, she will not know that about the Cunningham’s, but Scout's explanation gets her into trouble. When Scout explains “Walter’s one of the Cunningham’s,” (26), she was not trying to be insulting, but Miss Caroline mistakes her frank and innocent explanation as arrogance or rudeness and punishes her for it. Scout's perception of the world and her classmates is not yet marred by the social divisions that adults see. When Scout has Walter over for a meal Scout really does insult Walter this time as she questions the way he eats by saying “But he’s gone and...
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