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Scout's Path to Maturity in Harper Lee's Novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Critical Essay

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Elisabeth Kübler-Ross once said, “Learning lessons is a little like reaching maturity. You're not suddenly more happy, wealthy, or powerful, but you understand the world around you better, and you're at peace with yourself. Learning life's lessons is not about making your life perfect, but about seeing life as it was meant to be” (BrainyQuote). As Ross’ quote states, the lessons that we learn help us mature and thrive in the real world. Similarly, throughout the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, the narrator, Jean Louise Finch (Scout), learns numerous lessons that alter her perception of the world. She learns to control her temper and maintain a good attitude, understands that people act wrongly sometimes and that situations in life are not always pleasant. These lessons as a whole help Scout to understand the world much better.

One of the most important lessons Atticus tries to teach Scout was to control her temper and hold her head up high. On page 101, Atticus instructs, “You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t let ’em get your goat” (Lee). During the 1930s, a white man defending a black man was abnormal due to racism towards black people. Many people in Maycomb would berate Scout and her family for what her father is doing, however, Atticus doesn’t want Scout to be affected by the racial prejudice in the community, which is only possible if she maintains her irritation. Also, Atticus states, “Try fighting with your head for a change” (Lee, 101). Atticus is indirectly asking Scout to impart wisdom to the people who express racism by explaining to them that it is unethical. Scout learns to keep calm after many tough situations that she goes through.

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Another important lesson Scout learns after many unfortunate situations is that selfish people sometimes perpetrate unjust actions. Mrs. Dubose states, “Your father is no better than the niggers and trash he works for” (Lee, 135), which illustrates her bad actions. She represents all the things that are wrong with Maycomb, such as bias and racial inequality. She also makes demeaning comments about Scout and Jem, leading to conflict and hardships. In addition, towards the end of the book, Bob Ewell tries to kill Scout and Jem after being publicly humiliated by Atticus during the court case. “Somehow, I could think of nothing but Mr. Bob Ewell saying he’d get Atticus if it took him the rest of his life” (Lee, 358). Mr. Ewell held many grudges and blamed people for things that happened to him. As a result, it led him on a path of wrongdoing, where he threatened and hurt other people to shield himself from humiliation and guilt. From experiences like these, Scout understands that people commit bad actions that result in consequences.

Furthermore, Scout learns from her own experiences and others’ experiences that some situations in life could be tough for herself and others. There is an enormity of racism that causes discomfort to African Americans in society. For example, Dill says, “It ain’t right, somehow it ain’t right to do ’em that way. Hasn’t anybody got any business talkin’ like that – it just makes me sick” (Lee, 266), which shows how unfair white men treated African American people in Maycomb. In the modern world, behaviors like this could transpire in a struggle between black and white communities. This was a dilemma that was hard for many people to resolve during the 1930s in Maycomb. When Dill couldn’t handle the discrimination in the court, Mr. Dolphus Raymond reaches out to Dill and Scout about the troubles that white people give to the black community by saying, “Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too” (Lee, 269). Although African Americans look different than white people, they are still people, however, whites still regard them with disrespect. Hence, blacks had a tough time amongst whites during the Great Depression.

Scout realizes throughout the novel that people can be very harsh to content themselves, which places a person in rough positions. Scout learns lessons that help grow her understanding of the world. She learned to keep herself calm like Atticus. To control her tantrums, Scout decided to keep detrimental comments out of her mind that helped develop her image of the world. Additionally, Scout learned from the horrible actions of other people. This shaped the way she acts and how the antagonists of the story were crucial to the buildup of the character. As you can relate, Scout had to face many strenuous ordeals that had a great toll on her mentality, yet it prepared her for the future. Our blunders and fiascos, likewise, help us learn to improve later on. Knowing that you won’t have the best options in life is the key to going from adolescence to adulthood. Scout learns this the hard way by going through the very experiences that would pain us to even think about. A path to maturity is a phase that everyone goes through, including Scout, where the lessons we learn make the jump from innocence to understanding.

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Scout’s Path to Maturity in Harper Lee’s Novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Critical Essay. (2023, November 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
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