Theme of Character Development in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a recurring theme of character development and maturity is present. Boo Radley, who fears talking to others, Aunt Alexandra, who is against people of other races or social classes, and Scout, who is young and is not yet aware of life’s challenges, constantly suppress their emotions and personality. Their life choices and decisions made throughout the book, lead them to be more accepting of others and less prejudice. As the book progresses, Boo, Aunt Alexandra, and Scout learn life lessons and develop into mature adults. Boo Radley’s maturity is depicted in the novel when he overcomes his fear and interacts Scout, Jem, and Dill. Aunt Alexandra grows from the experiences of the Robinson trial. And Scout is faced with countless events in the story where she is forced to grow.

The first example of character growth as a theme in To Kill a Mockingbird would be the character development of Arthur “Boo” Radley. For the longest time, Boo has been isolated from the community of Maycomb spoken only of in rumors by the children. In reality, Boo has been watching over the townsfolk from the background confined to what he can see through the window. Boo, throughout most of the story, is extremely shy and introverted but, he is kind and caring. He cares for the children looks over them. Early in the book, Boo decides to secretly give Jem, Scout, and Dill some signs to show them that he is not afraid to communicate with them. He wants to show Scout, Jem, and Dill that he is interested in learning more about them and the entire world. By doing this, Boo begins to mature into a person who communicates and interacts with the world.

On the night of the incident where Jem lost his pants at the Radley’s house, Jem claims that “When I went back, they were folded across the fence… like they were expectin’ me” (78) from this the reader can infer that Boo was the one who mended Jem’s pants when Jem suspects this after the fire and the tree knot, he tells Atticus in an outburst of sympathy for Boo “…Mr. Nathan put cement in that tree, Atticus, an‘ he did it to stop us findin’ things—he’s crazy, I reckon, like they say, but Atticus, I swear to God he ain’t ever harmed us, he ain’t ever hurt us, he coulda cut my throat from ear to ear that night but he tried to mend my pants instead… he ain’t ever hurt us, Atticus—” (96) Jem begins to understand who Boo is though Scout is still afraid of Boo. Boo also makes an impression on the kids during the small time that he put gifts in the knot of the tree, but when Nathan Radley discovers this he fills the tree knot with cement to cut off communication between Boo and the kids. Boo is able to mature throughout the novel becoming less afraid of the outside world and communicating with it.

On the other hand, Aunt Alexandra faced a different but common obstacle, prejudice. Since prejudice was ubiquitous, Aunt Alexandra demonstrated maturity when she became more accepting of others especially Calpurnia, Boo, and Scout. Aunt Alexandra, Scout and Jem’s caretaker, had some difficulties interacting and talking around people who were a different race or of a lower social or economic class. When Aunt Alexandra first met Calpurnia, the African-American maid who worked in the Finch’s house, she despised her and all of her actions.

No matter what Calpurnia did or what she said, she could not please Aunt Alexandra. When Scout asked Atticus if she could visit Calpurnia at her house, Aunt Alexandra quickly intervened before Atticus could answer, “You may not”. However, later on in the novel, Aunt Alexandra developed a more accepting attitude towards Calpurnia. She allowed Calpurnia to serve the children dinner. This shows how much Aunt Alexandra has grown to be more accepting of other races and not be prejudice. Not only does Aunt Alexandra accept Calpurnia for who she is, but she also learns to accept Scout. “She brought me something to put on, and had I thought about it then, I would have never let her forget it: in her distraction, Aunty brought me my overalls” (). Throughout the novel of To Kill a Mockingbird, Aunt Alexandra is able to mature into a more accepting person.

The third example of growth and maturity in To Kill a Mockingbird is Scout. Near the beginning of the book, Scout is naive and doesn’t yet know the world around her. After Scout’s first day of school and her confrontation with Miss Caroline Scout consults with Atticus. Atticus tells Scout that she has to be more understanding of others, he tells her that to understand someone you have “to climb into [their] skin and walk around in it” () throughout the novel Scout is able to learn from all her experiences and grow from them. When Dill runs away from home to stay with the Finches, Scout asks him why he thinks that Boo Radley doesn’t run away from home and Dill responds with “Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run away too” this marks part of the journey that Scout has experience and how she has become more mature. At the end of the novel, Scout may not be the most understanding of people, but she certainly can walk around in your skin.


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Theme of Character Development in To Kill a Mockingbird. (2021, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/theme-of-character-development-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

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