To Kill a Mockingbird: Literary Analysis Essay on Characters Atticus, Jem, and Scout
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee creates a heartwarming Bildungsroman starring the Finch family, including Scout (Jean Louise Finch), Jem Finch, and Atticus Finch, and their embrace of courage, compassion, and social justice during the Great Depression. The meanings of Atticus’s, Scout’s, and Jem’s names essentially reflect the significance of their characterizations as a fair and caring father, a growing observant girl, and a developing passionate boy, respectively.
Discuss how the meanings of the names Atticus, Jem, and Scout reflect the significance of their characterizations in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Character Analysis of Atticus Finch
Atticus’s name means to be father-like and to have sound judgment, which significantly reflects and portrays his characterization as a both unbiased and compassionate father. Atticus Finch believes in fairness, not prejudging other people. When Scout criticizes Miss Caroline from school, her father Atticus teaches her that “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 39). Atticus teaches Scout to see others’ perspectives , to put herself in others’ moccasins. Encouraged by her father to go back and reconcile with Miss Caroline, Scout returns to the classroom, where she realizes her confrontation with Miss Caroline earlier that day was not Miss Caroline’s hatred towards Scout, but rather that Miss Caroline is a new teacher, and that her anger from being overwhelmed with her new duties at school was accidentally misplaced onto Scout. Scout Finch realizes that Miss Caroline was also having a frustrated day like her, and it was through Atticus’s wise words and guidance that Scout grows from this experience and accepts Miss Caroline.
Atticus Finch also displays compassionate traits, as a loving caring father to his children. Unlike the domineering fatherly trait like the men during the time, Atticus shows a unique gentle respect for his children, treating them often as equals. When Scout and Jem Finch snuck out of the house to protect Atticus from the mob, Atticus was initially angry that they might get hurt. However, Jem defies Atticus, staying put to help. Instead of being angered by his son Jem’s defiance, Atticus was internally proud. After returning home together as a family after the mob left, Scout reflects that “Atticus and Jem were well ahead of us, and I assumed that Atticus was giving him hell for not going home, but I was wrong. As they passed under a streetlight, Atticus reached out and massaged Jem’s hair, his one gesture of affection” (Lee 207). Through Scout’s lens, Atticus’s actions speak volume about his respectful parental style. Atticus understands his children’s feelings and that they were there for him to protect him. The fact that Atticus “reached out and massaged Jem’s hair” shows that Atticus embraces Jem’s determination to stand his ground and gives his children the space to learn.
Character Analysis of Scout Finch
The meaning of Scout’s name is to observe, and it adequately mirrors her characterization as an observant, courageous, and growing girl. Scout is extremely attentive and observant of her community around her. Across their home lies the mysterious Radley Porch and the equally mysterious man behind the Radley house’s window. “I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle…It was still summertime, and the children came closer…fall..winter…summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autmun again, and Boo’s children needed him. Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley Porch was enough” (Lee 374). When Scout escorts Boo back home, she physically stands on the Radley Porch. At the same time, she symbolically stands in the place where Boo always stands, placing herslef in his shoes. She begins to understand why Boo likes to stay in the house – perhaps, away from the troubles of society, including prejudice and racism. Before, Scout pities Boo for not enjoying the outside world, but now in his shoes, she gains a newfound respect for her neighbor and values his decision of staying indoors. This moment marks a significant step of Scout’s maturation, applying her fathers’ lesson to see other people’s perspectives.
Learn more about Scout Finch’s Development and maturity in our second literary analysis essay: Scout Finch Analysis
Character Analysis of Jem Finch
Jem’s last name, Finch, denotes the characteristic of vulnerability of the finch bird and reflects his characterization as a boy whose ideals of society is badly shaken by others, but his growth into a young mature man takes flight. When realizing that Tom Robinson who was truly innocent was being punished unfairly in the court room, Jem cannot help but feel powerless. He faces society’s conflicting standards. Like a mockingbird, Jem is innocent. He stands with justice and believes his ideas of what is right. Yet, the injustice of Tom Robinson’s court case shatters the young teen. “It was Jem’s turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd. ‘It ain’t right,’ he muttered, all the way to the corner of the square where we found Atticus waiting” (Lee 284). Tom is convicted guilty from the court. While the majority of the citizens are “cheerful” and happy, Jem disapproves of the result. During early America in the Great Depression era, African American men were denigrated under society’s standards, while white men were uplifted. Tom Robinson would end up guilty no matter what. Jem’s adamant anger towards this injustice shows his willingness to fight for what is right. Jem does not understand why Tom is guilty, and his ideals of justice are shattered. Jem believes that people should fight for the truth, rather than be persuaded by color and society’s black and white standards. Although Jem Finch displays a moment of vulnerability here, he grows out of his naive shell as a boy and emerges as a mature young man after the incident. He is determined to right the wrongs in the future, ready to follow his father Atticus’s footsteps as a passionate social justice advocate.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Print.
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