Kessly M. Frasson
March 8 2018
To Kill A Mockingbird – Opinion Piece
The novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a book that is full of racism, discrimination, and life lessons. Every single character that was created by Harper Lee plays a major role and is very important in the plot of the novel. Each character contributes to the growth and maturation of Scout, the main character and narrator in the story. In my opinion, the two characters who have the most negative influence on Scout are Aunt Alexandra and Jem Finch, while her most positive influences are Atticus Finch and Calpurnia. While Aunt Alexandra and Jem Finch push Maycomb’s traditional racism, discrimination, arrogance of the white community, and sneaking around onto Scout, Atticus Finch and Calpurnia try to show Scout that there is more to life, that everyone is equal, and that kindness towards everyone will get you farther in life.
Atticus Finch, the father of Jem and Scout, one of Maycomb’s best lawyers and one of Scout’s positive influences, is a man who says what he means, and lives how he thinks. Atticus’s way of raising his children is not only getting them to understand how they should behave, but why they should behave that way. Atticus is a positive influence on Scout because although the whole town is racist, he teaches her to accept everyone and treat everyone with respect, no matter their status, or the colour of their skin. He does not just tell his children to do that, he acts as a good example so that they’ll follow his actions. For example, after Mrs. Dubose passes away, he says to Jem, “I wanted you to see something about her—I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew” (Lee 112). Although Atticus said this to Jem and not Scout, these are the kinds of lessons that Atticus teaches to his children. When Scout complains about her new teacher, Miss Caroline, Atticus explains, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (Lee 30). All Atticus wants is for Scout to grow up to be a kind woman with a good head on her shoulders. This last example of Atticus ties in with Calpurnia. Calpurnia acts as a mother figure in Scout’s life, and is very close with Scout. Calpurnia keeps Scout out of trouble by letting her help in the kitchen and teaching her how to write. On top of Atticus’ teachings, Calpurnia teaches Scout how to respect others. For example, when Walter Cunningham comes to the Finch house for lunch, Scout scolds him for the way he eats. This upsets Calpurnia, so she pulls Scout into the kitchen and says, “There’s some folks that don’t eat like us, but you ain’t called on to contradict ’em at the table when they don’t. That boy’s yo’ comp’ny and if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?” (Lee 24). Calpurnia teaches Scout the basics of being kind and respecting others, while also being a very close friend to her. Because Scout trusts Calpurnia and likes her a lot, this makes Scout very inclined to learn these lessons.
Alexandra Finch Hancock, the aunt of Scout and Jem, and Atticus’ sister, is a very strict woman, who likes to have her way in most matters. She believes in the traditional ways of society, such as women and young girls acting proper, and dressing in the proper attire. She disapproves of the way Atticus lets Jem and Scout run around wildy, and urges Scout to wear dresses and act like a lady. She puts a lot of emphasis on Scout and Jem growing up correctly according to society, and living up to their name. I believe that she is a negative influence on Scout because the first time we met Aunt Alexandra, we learned about who she is. She is racist, judgmental, and cares only about herself and her reputation. For example, as the trial grew closer, Aunt Alexandra went and lived with Scout, Jem, and Atticus for a while because she felt that Scout needed a female influence. She believed that Calpurnia was unfit to be Scout’s role model, solely because she was black and of a lower class. In chapter fourteen, Aunt Alexandra tells Atticus that she thinks that he should let Calpurnia go because she is no longer needed. Atticus responds, “Alexandra, Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn’t have gotten along without her all these years. She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things the way they are” (Lee 137). This shows that Alexandra wants to change who Scout is and prejudice. Even though Calpurnia is a great character and has undoubtedly taught Scout great lessons, Aunt Alexandra wants her gone and doesn’t care about what would happen to her if she were to leave. She disapproves of the fact the Scout’s only female influence is a black woman, and therefore wants to take over. Alexandra exposes Scout to racism, judging people, caring only for yourself and what society thinks about you, and she tries to convince her to change herself just to make others happy. The last thing Atticus wants is for Scout to turn into someone like Aunt Alexandra. Scout’s aunt is a terrible influence, however, Jem Finch, Scout’s older brother, also gets her into trouble. Jem is older than Scout, and one of her only friends, therefore modelling behaviour for her on a daily basis. Jem disobeys his father multiple times in the novel, and does things that Atticus disapproves of. For example, Jem makes a bet with Dill, a boy that Scout and Dill befriend in the summer. The bet is that Jem won’t be able to go and touch the Radley house. Jem obviously wanted to prove Dill wrong, so he ran to the house and touched it. This is a bad example for Scout, because this action makes fun of the Radley’s and uses their family for the kids’ entertainment. Another example is when Jem decides to sneak out in chapter fifteen. When Atticus strangely leaves the house with a light and takes the car instead of walking, Jem decides to sneak out and follow him to investigate. Scout wants to follow her older brother, even though she knows her father would be upset that they’re leaving the house. However, in her mind, her older brother is doing it and thinks it’s okay, so why shouldn’t she do it too? This is similar to when Jem, Scout, and Dill sneak into the courthouse to watch the trial with Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell. Scout wouldn’t have snuck into the courthouse by herself, but because Jem went, she thought it was fine to disobey Atticus and attend something she knows he wouldn’t her to.
Every character in the novel How To Kill A Mockingbird has some kind of influence on Scout Finch. Whether it is good or bad, they all affect the way in which she grows up and matures. Some characters, such as Calpurnia and Atticus, pose as positive influences, and some characters, such as Aunt Alexandra and Jem, pose as negative influences. Scout is exposed to racism, prejudice, rumours, gossip, and is urged to change who she is as a person, but is taught by others how to be brave, respectful, caring, kind, careful, and to be herself. She starts out as very innocent in the beginning of the novel, but learns a lot about society, how ugly the world can be, and how just being kind and seeing everyone as equal human beings can mean everything in saving someone’s life. She is put through situations that test her ability to look for silver linings, and to accept everyone. Throughout Scout’s life in Maycomb County, she experiences a lot, makes a lot of mistakes, and is taught to learn from them, and become a better person as a result.