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To Kill a Mockingbird: Irony and Sarcasm

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Irony and Sarcasm

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  • October 1999
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Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is a highly regarded work of American fiction. The story of the novel teaches us many lessons that should last any reader for a lifetime. The messages that Harper Lee relays to the reader are exemplified throughout the book using various methods. One of the most important and significant methods was the use of symbols such as the mockingbird image. Another important method was showing the view through a growing child's (Scout Finch) mind, eyes, ears, and mouth. There is another very significant method that was used. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee utilizes the effects of irony, sarcasm, and hypocrisy to criticize a variety of elements in Southern life.

Harper Lee employs the effects of irony in To Kill a Mockingbird as a way to criticize the deficiency of public education. "Now tell your father not to teach you any more. It's best to begin reading with a fresh mind." (pG. 22) Instead of praising Scout's ability to read at an advanced level, Miss Caroline discourages it. This ironic example set by Miss Caroline seems to demonstrate the inadequate training that she had received for her occupation. Miss Caroline seems to have been instructed upon a strict standard on how her students are expected to behave, but when she encounters something different, such as Scout's advanced ability to read, she advises Scout to stop being advanced, whereas a modern-day schoolteacher would capitalize on Scout's ability to read and encourage her to read more. "You won't learn to write until you're in the third grade." (pg. 23) The strict, recipe-style, rubric method of teaching that Miss Caroline uses is once again emphasized here. Miss Caroline once again discourages Scout's advanced abilities and regards Scout's ability with contempt. "The Dewey Decimal System consisted, in part, of Miss Caroline waving cards at us which were printed 'the,' 'cat,' 'rat,' 'man,' and 'you.'" (pg. 23) The Dewey Teaching Method was supposed...