Over the course of three years, a seemingly quiet town faced the unexpected. A fruitless trial was held, innocence was lost, blood was shed, and an unlikely friend emerged. Written by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in the city of Maycomb during the 1930s. The book tells the story through the childish views of Jean Louse Finch (Scout), as she and her brother Jem face instances of human evil. Alongside the two is their father Atticus, who gradually teaches the two to fight against their own well-being and do what they feel is right. In the story, Lee demonstrates Scout’s personality growth through her newfound morals, ability to look past misconceptions morals, and rejection of gender stereotypes.
Scout gradually acquires moral values by learning how to reduce her urge to resort to unnecessary violence. Concerned, Atticus lectures Scout about her tendency of fighting with classmates: “’…you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't let ‘em get your goat’” (Lee 76). Atticus disapproves of Scout’s quick decisions of resorting to violence and asks her to learn to control her temper. Due to Scout being young, Atticus is worried about the consequences that come with getting into fights frequently and because he worries that Scout will follow a wrong path. After the talk, Scout does in fact obey his advice about controlling her temper and walks away from a fight: "I drew bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped my fists and walked away, ‘Scout's a coward!' ringing in my ears. It was the first time I had ever walked away from a fight. Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem and me to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him” (Lee 76). Scout, for the first time in her entire life, walked away from a fight all because of what Atticus had said earlier. She showed that she is growing up by being able to keep herself under control of her emotions. Finch's thought of personal honor is shifted from fighting being a solution to being able to not cause an uproar for no reason. Though it seems to be the right decision at the time, unnecessary violence only makes matters worse.
As the story progresses, Scout realizes that the stereotypical image of a lady isn’t what being a woman is about. Thinking over gender stereotypes, Scout talks to herself about not being handle the huge shift: "I felt the starched walls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on me, and for the second time in my life I thought of running away" (Lee 136). Scout takes Aunt Alexandra's actions against her pants as being against her freedom. For Scout, being a lady-in-training means giving up all the things she likes to do and replacing them with what others expect her to do, and she'll have none of it. When Aunt Alexandra returns to her tea party with a serious look after hearing about Tom’s death, Scout sets her as a new example: "After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I" (Lee 237). Looking at Aunt Alexandrea, Scout took pride in following her lead. Though she still isn't comfortable with the guidelines that ladies must follow, Scout does pick up on the examples of the strong women in her life. Scout doesn’t ever abandon her tomboyish ways, but she does come to recognize that being a lady has some value. As Scout matures she also acquires the ability to look past misconceptions. Speaking to herself, Scout thinks about how terrifying Arthur Radley (Boo) must be: “Every night-sound I heard from my cot on the back porch was magnified three-fold; every scratch of feet on gravel was Boo Radley seeking revenge, every passing Negro laughing in the night was Boo Radley loose and after us; insects splashing against the screen were Boo Radley's insane fingers picking the wire to pieces; the chinaberry trees were malignant, hovering, alive” (Lee 55). Though Scout has never seen Boo before, she is quick to think that he must be a frightening, violent person. Scout unknowingly connects something that she doesn’t know as ominous, and in Scout's mind the whole world becomes dangerous—every sound signaling a threat. After she met Boo, Scout looks back on how she previously treated Boo and regrets her actions: “Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad” (Lee 278). Once Scout realizes all of the things that Boo has done for her, she regrets not giving anything in return. As Scout begins to grow up, she is able to look at things in a new light. A part of maturing is learning to not judge people at first glance, because the brightest of people could be found in the dark. Through To Kill a Mockingbird, Jean Louise Finch learned to avoid trouble, just by following Atticus’s orders on not causing an uproar with her fists. Through To Kill a Mockingbird, Jean Louise Finch learned that being a lady isn’t all about tea parties and frolicking in dresses, but it’s also about standing up for your own opinions. Above all, Jean Louise Finch learned that the unknown may not end up being such a scary thing after all. Maturity has a variety of definitions, but Scout learned hers as many others have—through experience. She has matured immensely compared to how she was in the beginning of the story, but she is still only a mockingbird that has just begun to sing.