Innocence to Experience, in Harper Lee's to Kill a Mockingbird

Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, Truman Capote Pages: 13 (2457 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Innocence to Experience

"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the

streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square."(Lee

9). This environment, as Scout Finch accurately describes, is not conducive to young children, loud

noises, and games. But, the Finch children and Dill must occupy themselves in order to avoid

boredom. Their surroundings are their boundaries, but in their minds, they have no physical confines.

Although the physical "boundaries were Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose's house two doors to the

north..., and the Radley Place three doors to the south,"(Lee 11) Jem, Scout, and Dill find ways to

use the limits, in conjunction with their imaginations, to amuse themselves. The children are the ones

who change the old town and make it full of unexpected events. In the same way as the children, the

adults of the novel play games that come from their imaginations and, they themselves are the ones

who provide the fear for everyone in the county to fear. "Maycomb County had recently been told

that it had nothing to fear but fear itself"(10). The adults and the children share the fact that they both

play games, but a difference also exists between them. The children enact their entertainment,

knowing that the games could get violent, but in the end, when the games are over, all the players are

able to return home. On the other hand, the adults play their adult games, hurting anyone who does

not play by the given rules, and not everyone is fortunate enough to return home. The children

pretend to be violent at times but the adults actually are violent. As the children move through the

novel, they use these games to develop from their innocence to a level of experience by actualizing

the realities of their games through the lives of the adults. Through their own games and through the

games of the adults, the children learn values of respect, courage, and understanding.

As most children naturally do, Jem, Scout, and their newly-found friend Dill find amusements to

make the days pass with excitement. When they first meet Dill, they are beginning the "day's play in

the backyard"(11). The implication is that it becomes routine for them to play and that each day

brings on a different experience. When Dill joins them in their daily adventures, they begin to create

more elaborate activities. Many days they spend improving the treehouse, "fussing"(12), and acting

out parts of plays by Oliver Optic, Victor Appleton, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Their games of

Tom Swift, The Rover Boys, and The Gray Ghost are the source of their pleasures for hours and

days upon end. Once these games seem rote and overplayed, they decide to make Boo Radley

come out. The mystery of Boo Radley is appealing and leaves more room for their imaginations to

grow. Thus, the "Boo Radley" plays begin. These plays are innocent in their motives and since they

are not real, the consequences are virtually nonexistent. Although these plays are simply for

amusement, in the end, they teach Jem, Scout, and Dill lessons about respect, courage, and

understanding. The "Boo" games begin with a simple dare that Jem has to carry out in order to gain

respect from his sister and friend. By slapping the Radley's house, he is almost a hero for a brief

moment- a hero that Scout and Dill admire because of his tremendous courage. Scout also has her

turn to prove herself to the boys, but the opportunity comes to her as a surprise. As she rolls

uncontrollably in a tire into the Radley's front yard, her fear heightens with every turn and the

smartest thing for her to do is to run away as fast and as far away as possible. Scout and Jem both

learn about courage in the first Boo games they invent by testing their levels of fear.

The next stage in...
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