April 23, 2010
English Period 3
To Kill A Mockingbird- Socialization of Scout
Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, the narrator of To Kill A Mockingbird, is a very different six-year-old girl, in both her personality traits and in her social position. She can read before she enters school, she is unusually thoughtful, and she acts like a tomboy in her prim and proper Southern Maycomb. In To Kill A Mockingbird, various characters such as Alexandra, Atticus, and many others contribute to the socialization of Scout. Scout learns to act lady-like, how to be respectful and be guided by her morals, and to look at situations and intentions from another perspective.
Scout faces many issues in the novel, but one of the most lingering problems for her is what it means to be a lady. While most girls in Maycomb wear dresses and learn lady-like manners, Scout wears overalls and plays with Jem and Dill. Sometimes Jem criticizes Scout for acting like a girl, and other times he complains that she isn’t girly enough. “ ‘You know she’s [Alexandra] not used to girls,’ said Jem, ‘leastways, not girls like you. She’s trying to make you a lady. Can’t you take up sewin’ or somethin’?’ “ (Lee, pg. 302). Scout’s tomboyish-ness drives Aunt Alexandra to try and change her. She moves in with the Finches to provide Scout with some feminine influence. Alexandra feels that she can positively influence Scout by advising her before she becomes interested in clothes and boys. As Scout participates in Alexandra’s missionary circle, she realizes that womanhood is much more than socializing with neighbors; it is acting with dignity and pride. When she sees Aunt Alexandra thank Miss Maudie with only body language and no words, Scout realizes the complexity of this social order. "There was no doubt about it, I must soon enter this world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water," (Lee, pg. 313). Scout is also amazed at how Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra handle the news of Tom Robinson’s tragic death. “Aunt Alexandra looked across the room at me and smiled. With my best company manners, I asked Mrs. Merriweather if she would have some cookies,” (Lee, pg. 318). All three of them are disturbed and shaken; yet they carry on with the meeting as though nothing has happened. They display moral courage by maintaining a public façade of composure. Scout understands the importance of doing so, and in her first attempt to evolve into a lady, she follows Alexandra’s lead and continues serving refreshments. “If Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I,” (Lee, pg. 318). The women of Maycomb, Alexandra, Maudie, and Calpurnia in a sense help Scout become a woman.
The other various lessons Scout truly incorporates into her life is the necessity of walking in someone else’s skin. Atticus begins teaching Scout about the importance of looking at situations and intentions from another perspective very early in the story. When Scout comes home from school frustrated by the misfortunes of the first day with Ms. Caroline, Atticus tells her to consider things from Ms. Caroline’s point of view. “Ms. Caroline learned not to hand something to a Cunningham, but if Walter and I had put ourselves in her shoes we’d have seen it was an honest mistake on her part. We could not expect her to learn all Maycomb’s ways in one day, and we could not hold her responsible when she knew no better,” (Lee, pg. 39). Atticus points out her own failures in this area and demonstrates his points in his own interactions with other people. He is unaffected by Mrs. Dubose's sharp tongue, Miss Stephanie Crawford's catty gossip, and even Walter Cunningham's faint threat on his life. He does not retaliate when Bob Ewell spits in his face because he understands that he has wounded Ewell's pride. Atticus accepts these people because he is an expert at "climbing into other people's skin and walking around in it," (Lee, pg. 39). At the end of the novel, Scout can put herself in Boo Radley’s shoes, but “just standing on the Radley porch was enough,” (Lee, pg. 374).
In To Kill A Mockingbird, characters like Alexandra and Atticus, in particular, contribute to the socialization of Scout. Scout learns to act lady-like, how to be respectful and be guided by her morals, and to look at things from another perspective.