Evil, Good And Innocence In To Kill A Mockingbird And Pan’s Labyrinth
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together. Such has Shakespeare’s notion remained part of history throughout medians of literature, plays and films to this day and this was no different during the period in which Harper Lee’s tale To Kill a Mockingbird and Guilmero Del Toro’s epic Pan’s labyrinth were set. Both narratives explore the idea of Evil Versus Good by challenging its demeanour and coexistence through the portrayal of innocence in characters such as six-year-old Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and eleven-year-old Ofelia in Pan’s labyrinth. By illustrating a world in which the characters are forced to confront the violence and malevolence of a power corrupt society during the early 18th century it explores the lengths to which humans would go to survive therefore defining their natural human instincts into the division of Good and Evil. This exploration of Good and Evil can be seen in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird which recounts the adolescence of young Scout and Jem Finch living in Maycombe, Alabama as they observe the false accusations of rape to an innocent African American man, Tom Robinson. The Film Pan’s Labyrinth follows the life of Ofelia, who is transferred to a rural military base during the Spanish Civil war in Northern Spain. As Ofelia witnesses the grim realities of war she escapes this through a fantastical world, but merely a distant mirage.
Lee and Del Toro highlight and criticise the concept of Good versus evil through an array of language and film techniques depicted using characterisation, symbolism, narrative point of view, which enriches the interpretation of this concept allowing audiences to understand and sympathise with characters. Both Lee and Del Toro approach the theme of Good versus evil from the perspective of a child protagonists depicting that innocence is born first, and with the exposure to the cruel world, in To Kill a Mockingbird Scout is counselled by her good role model of a father Atticus, whereas in Pan’s Labyrinth Ofelia’s only parent dies in which she is left to fend for herself in a fascist society.
Both creators use the stylistic feature of narrative point of view to enhance the idea of innocence by highlighting and captivating the perspective of an innocent character, so that the audience may understand their point of view. Lee opens her narrative using elevated and complex language including brethren, dictum and impotent fury to depict the scene of the narrative with explicit description. In contrast to Lee, Del Toro enriches this narrative device with film techniques and camera angles, which can especially be seen through the opening scene of Ofelia’s dying body. As Ofelia’s death seems to reverse, seen through the blood drawing back into her body, the narration of an unknown male voice, most likely to be Pan’s, begins to narrate the story of Princess Moana. In concurrence with this narration, the camera zooms into Ofelia’s eyes, which is symbolic of the audience entering her body and witnessing the reversal of her death in which at first is the birth of Princess Moana. After depicting the scene, both authors similarly foreground the idea of innocence through the perspectives of young girls. Lee places the narration within the perspective of six-year-old protagonist Scout Finch. Because this character is six years old, Scout can be considered an unreliable narrator. Scout’s innocence leads her to misinterpret certain events, including when Dill states “get us a baby”, Scout believes that God drops them down chimneys. Lee intentionally uses a child narrator, to enable the audience to experience the books events through fresh eyes. Ultimately, with the perspective of an innocent character, Lee allows the audience to create their own opinions. Likewise, Del Toro uses a child narrator, through eleven-year-old Ofelia. Her innocence and curiosity is specifically depicted through the fantasy world she explores throughout the narrative. Del Toro never verifies this fantasy world, which can be seen at the ending when Captain Vidal does not see the fantastical faun that Ofelia is talking too. This is done intentionally to allow the audience to remain confused and question whether the fantasy world is real or not. Both authors emphasise the idea of innocence through the narrative point of view, although it is Del Toro who also adds emphasis into the idea of evil and good through this literary device. Whilst most of the film is seen through the perspective of Ofelia, several scenes are seen through the perspectives of Captain Vidal, Mercedes and the doctor. Del Toro incorporates certain actions and behaviours in these scenes to depict the nature of the character. This can be understood through the cruel punishments of torture Captain Vidal enforces on the rebel soldiers, depicting that Captain Vidal is evil. In contrast the scenes with Mercedes portrays her kind and caring nature especially towards Ofelia. Del Toro employs these perspectives to depict the perspectives of evil, good and innocence, empowering the audience to choose a side. Because most of the film is perceived through Ofelia, Del Toro desires the audience to choose Ofelia, hence innocence. He then kills Ofelia to display that innocence cannot exist in a world of evil and good.
Both authors have illustrated a world in which the audience can be reminded and informed about what the world used to be. They share a mutual purpose in entertaining and captivating the audience through hidden symbols, which have been used to enhance the filmography and storyline to keep the audience engaged and provoke certain emotions. Both authors portray the idea of innocence, evil and good through the symbolic means of objects and animals. Del Toro depicts the idea of innocence through the rose presented in Ofelia’s story and the fantastical underground world. During the film, as her pregnant mother rests Ofelia tells the story of a rose which blossoms every night on top of a tall mountain, and if attained by men can offer eternal life, however it has never been taken as it’s thorns are poisonous. Ironically, she tells this story to her unborn brother, another innocent character, the innocent protecting the innocent. The symbolic meaning of the rose is a metaphor for Ofelia’s life and her potential journey into adulthood, however her journey into adulthood is replete with fear and pain and so she escapes womanhood. Ofelia never makes it to this rose or potential womanhood as she dies. This is symbolic of Ofelia avoiding the adolescence she must grow into, and with it the responsibilities of being an adult. Being raised with little parental guidance, Ofelia’s instinct is to run back to the innocence she was born with, in which Del Toro alluded with the pain free underground fantastical realm. Not only does Ofelia’s innocence stop her from reaching womanhood, but the thorns on the rose represents the men which poison the world of women with war and misogyny, alluding back to her evil stepfather and the soldiers around her, a depiction of the evil in her world. Lee depicts the idea of innocence through the mockingbird, hence to kill a Mockingbird is to destroy innocence, implying that the characters of Tom Robinson, Dill, Boo Radley, Scout and Jem Finch are identified as the novel’s mockingbirds and the innocent. Similarly, both Lee and Del Toro prompt the audience of these concepts throughout the narrative. In Pan’s Labyrinth, the rose is mentioned in Ofelia’s story and the Ofelia’s many encounters in the fantastical world symbolizing her innocence reminding the audience of her innocence many times. Alike to Lee’s narrative the symbolism of the mockingbird is reminded many times by certain characters including Miss Maudi Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but…sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird and Mr Underwood the senseless slaughter of songbirds. Both Lee and Del Toro keep these symbols hidden and do not add emphasis onto it. In doing this it allows the audience to keep engaged and curious about the idea of innocence.
Characterisation is used by both Lee and Del Toro to portray the evil, good and innocent in the respective narratives. Although both Lee and Del Toro use young unreliable characters, it is Lee who gradually develops the progress of her main protagonist. Scout begins the novel as an innocent six-year-old, with no knowledge of evils in this world. As the novel proceeds, Scout encounters evil portrayed through the events of Tom Robinsons trial, an example of racial prejudice. However, it is her father’s wisdom which assists in Scout’s mitigation and understanding of evil. Lee uses this character development to symbolise that a person can survive the evils in this world, through the good in this world. This representation of evil, good and innocent is heavily contrasted in Del Toro’s film. Ofelia’s presence in the film also conflicts with evil around her, however in the form of fascism. Ofelia’s character development can be seen through her encounters with the fantastical world. As she visits it more and more, her sense of reality begins to diminish which leads her to her untimely death, embarking on a statement that innocence cannot exist. Little description is exposed by Lee about Scout’s appearance. However, she can be depicted as an outgoing, rough and curious child and is described to be bigger’n than the average first graders. Ironically, Scout’s last name is Finch which happens to be a small bird much like the mockingbird, this irony was used to symbolise Scouts innocence. Del Toro depicts Ofelia as a lover of books and fairy tales which can be seen through her reading and the bedtime stories she reads to her little brother. Her innocence is especially depicted through the naivety in imagining a fantasy world. Both Scout and Del Toro share a common thread in curiosity, an innocent trait which can be seen through Scout’s inquisitiveness where are the hymn books, and Ofelia’s curiosity to further explore the fantasy world. Both authors explore ideas including fascism and racial prejudice in the form of evil, consequently they too characterise certain characters to portray evil. In Lee’s narrative, Bob Ewell can be defined as the evil in which Scout, her family and Tom Robinson encounter. His character is displayed to be a self-serving sociopath Atticus was leaving the post office when Mr. Ewell approached him, cursed him, spat on him, and threatened to kill him. Through his misdirected feelings towards Tom Robinson, Lee depicts the evils of racism. In Del Toro’s film evil is depicted through the characterisation of Captain Vidal, a direct representation of fascist ideology. His obsession with rules and regiment can be seen through his cleanliness of his boots, time management and mannerisms. As Ofelia tries to escape the repression that surrounds her through her fantasy realm, Vidal tries to control her and those around him through violence and fear. Lee and Del Toro’s characterisation assists the audience through description, behaviours and actions to understand and depict who is good, evil and innocent in the respective narratives.
To Kill a Mockingbird and Pan’s Labyrinth both use the stylistics features of narrative point of view, symbolism, characterisation and other film and literary techniques to explore the aspects of Evil, Good and Innocence through ideas such as fascism and racial prejudice.
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