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Change causes many things. It disrupts daily patterns, causes stress, and teaches people things. The changes could be good or bad, but one thing about all changes remains the same; How much it impacts people. In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout and Jem had to experience lots of change. They weren’t protected by their parents but exposed to the true society through things that most never experience. The book took place in the 1930s, during the great depression, in Maycomb, Alabama, which was already a very rough time for many.
For example, the kids attend a trial addressing rape and racism while only being in grade school. It forced them to defend themselves in a vengeful attack, figure out that some of those close to them are not what they seem, and have to persist through school while their father is being shamed by kids their age. As a result, it exposed the Finch children to mature topics earlier in life than others.
In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee shows the themes of courage, deceptive appearances, and coming of age.
Courage is a very hard theme to have. It takes strength, pride, and intelligence. Courage isa theme that was displayed in the book To Kill a Mockingbird. The shocking thing is, they represented lots of the courage in the novel through the children, the weakest grouping of people in the novel. Jem was a humble boy who only did courageous acts when it meant protecting himself or others, not for pride.
Jem was willing to risk his life to save his sister because of his love for her. He didn’t know the outcome , and he knew he would pay for his choice, but he still ran back to fight Bob if it meant his sister would come out alive (Lee 351).
Jem would later face the consequences for protecting Scout, his sister, but it’s more important that he had the courage to take the chance of being injured. Jem also performed another great act of courage earlier in the book to protect himself. Earlier in the novel, the siblings had just gotten into bed when Jem stood up and got prepared to go to the Radley house to retrieve his pants. Going out was not only past his curfew, but it was also a death sentence.. An hour or two earlier Nathan Radley had been prepared to shoot a gun at anything, including children, and Jem was no exception. Somehow, Jem built up the courage to go back to the Radley home and get his pants because he didn’t want to risk going on without them (Lee 74-76). Harper Lee implies his courage especially when he comes back, “There he was, returning to me… Wordlessly, he held up his pants, he lay down, and for a while I heard the cot trembling,” ( Lee 76).
Jem was scared. Fearing something takes more courage to overcome than if one were confident in it. Jem wasn’t the only character that displayed many acts of courage, though. A small act of courage that one man took, saved the lives of two children. Boo Radley was a man afraid of going outside. He hadn’t been seen on the streets of Maycomb in years, and he developed a fear of social interaction. For most, going outside is not a big deal, and even more of a no-brainer when it’s in the means of saving lives. Boo finds this very difficult. Although Harper Lee doesn’t state this directly, it’s inferred that Boo was scared of having any attention when Scout points at him (Lee 362). Boo had no intention of ever coming out of his safe space, yet he overcame his fears to “save his children” (Lee 374). It took a lot of courage out of him to enter an unfamiliar environment and immediately get into action. It’s like moving to a new school, and then immediately having finals. There were many themes of courage throughout the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, especially from the least expected people.
Deceptive appearances means that some people are not what they seem. As the reader gets to know a character better, they discover their true personality. Whether or not it’s expected, good or bad, almost everybody has a trait they hide from the first impression. Since the book is based around childhood, new characters are introduced very often, and we learn more about them the more age takes its toll. For example, in the kids’ eyes, Mr. Avery is a lazy man who has no respect for anyone, including his neighbors. He was known for peeing from his porch, onto the street (Lee 68). The entire town avoided him because of his reputation. When Maudie’s house fire happened, the only man in the neighborhood that was risking his life by throwing furniture out was Mr. Avery. Even though he didn’t like Miss. Maudie, he was still kind enough to help her save as much as she could (Lee 93).
Who knew that the laziest man in the town would end up being the man that risks everything to help his neighbors. This shows deceptive appearances because his actions were unexpected, for they were contradicting his reputation. Another character representing deceptive appearances was Aunt Alexandra, the Finch children’s Aunt. She was a rude and inconsiderate character who wanted Scout to change her personality. At one point in the novel, Aunt Alexandra moves in. Since the book is told through Scout’s perspective, Alexandra’s image isn’t very acceptable to most readers. Later in the book, Aunt Alexandra has many of the women in the town over for tea. They are all gossiping about the current event when one lady begins to criticizes Atticus (Alexandra’s brother). Maudie defends Atticus by humbling her. This was expected, but what wasn’t expected was how Alexandra appreciated and secretly thanked Maudie for defending her brother. “She gave Miss. Maudie a look of pure gratitude,” (Lee 312)
Alexandra’s look meant she was truly grateful and a silent thanks to Maudie for sticking up for her brother. This was shocking because based on past events, Alexandra didn’t like what her brother was doing. She claimed he was a “disgrace to the family” and a “nigger-lover” (Lee 110). Turns out she really loves him. It was until that moment that the reader thought that Aunt Alexandra was a horrible Aunt. Before the trial, a character named Dolphus Raymond was introduced. He was known as the town drunk. He only hung around African Americans and was always seen drinking. His past wasn’t so good either. His fiancee killed herself once she figured out he was having an affair with a black woman. People claimed the reason he was drinking was because his fiancee passed, and he hung around blacks because he was drunk ( Lee 214-215).
Scout and Dill, Scout’s summer friend, stumbled upon Dolphus Raymond outside the courthouse because Dill was crying. Raymond offered his drink to comfort Dill, and Dill reluctantly took a sip. Shockingly, there was nothing but Cola in the cup. Scout learned soon after that Raymond pretended he was drunk so people wouldn’t question his choices. Raymond was never drunk! It was just an excuse for his behavior. Raymond was nothing like the man society made him.Who was Dolphus Raymond? A nice guy that made life a little easier for those clueless people out there (Lee 267). Harper did a very good job of presenting the theme of “Deceptive appearances”. Many of the examples were ones that were least expected. It causes one to think about how many people aren’t what they seem.
Coming of age is the theme of growing up. Whether it’s becoming more skilled, physically maturing, or realizing new things, everybody goes through these changes at one point. For the two main characters of the book, Scout and Jem, these changes happened early. As many children do, Scout hated being told what to do. Parents are usually the figures that make kids do things the kid doesn’t want to do, but mostly it’s benefiting the kid later on. But kids don’t know that, they end up disliking whoever did them wrong. This is much like Scout and Aunt Alexandra’s relationship. Although Scout doesn’t know it yet, everything Alexandra is doing for her is to benefit Scout’s future self. At a later point in the book, Scout realizes that Aunt Alexandra is a person she should look up to rather than despise. This can be inferred when Scout thinks “After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I” (Lee 318).
If one wants to mimic the actions of another, they usually admire that person. Whether Scout realizes this or not, she’s looking up to her Aunt. This may mean she’s finally realizing that everything Aunt Alexandra does is for a reason. Like people, society is very complex. And to most, the relationship between status and society is especially close. As a child, people don’t clearly understand society unless they are exposed to it. But for many, the true outside world is hidden by family and lack of resources/communication. After both age and specific events take place, Jem realizes the real world. He understands why some people are pushed away and others are welcomed. He has climbed this mountain his whole life and is finally able to see from the top nearly every aspect. He tells Scout this, but she doesn’t understand. Jem sees society as “how long your family has been reading and writing…” (Lee 304 ), but Scout sees it as almost everybody is equal. Jem only thinks this now because he’s older and realizing things. He even says it to Scout, “I thought that too… when I was your age” ( Lee 304). They’ve seen the same things and have the same parents, the only difference between them is age. It’s later in the novel when Scout begins to reach the age of maturity. A huge sign of Scout maturing mentally is when she understands a meaningful quote and applies it into a real-life situation. In the beginning of chapter ten, Miss. Maudie informs Scout that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee 119 ).
Although this was a traditional rule in hunting, the phrase has another meaning behind it. Miss. Maudie describes Mockingbirds to Scout, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out to us” (Lee 199 ). The deeper meaning is not yet revealed, but as the most important theme in the novel, it’s developed in many situations. Scout only understood what Maudie told her at the time, but she realizes later on what the saying really meant. At the very end of the novel, Atticus asks Scout if she understood why they were trying to cover up Boo Radley killing Bob Ewell. Atticus didn’t expect her to understand because of her age, but she responded with the same quote from earlier (Lee 370). Scout realizes that Boo was similar to an innocent mockingbird and if they made him a hero, he would lose the one thing he had, his privacy. When she was younger she didn’t understand what the saying meant, but a few years later she finally took in the deeper meaning. Maturity is something that falls upon all of us at some point. We may only realize it until later. In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, coming of age is a theme that lasts the entire book through many different characters.
Harper Lee demonstrates themes of bravery, maturity, and that things are not what they seem in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s risking your life to save your sisters that makes a strong person. It’s having a kind and caring person beneath the rude and inconsiderate mask. It’s finally understanding how society works after believing a simple explanation for years. Change changes people. It changes what they know, and what they want to know. Change creates conflict, and ends it. Change changes everyone.
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