Which Characters Display These Themes? Scout Atticus Mayella Ewell Heck Tate “Boo” Radley
Scout’s Definitive Qualities Confidence—Scout has high self-esteem, and sees nothing wrong with her outlook on life, or her tomboyish mannerisms. She often says exactly what she happens to be thinking, and is not bashful about seeking answers on matters she doesn’t understand. “ You’re shamin’ him, Miss Caroline. Walter hasn’t got a quarter at home to bring you, and you can’t use any stovewood.” (p. 26, regarding Walter Cunningham’s lack of lunch and Miss Caroline’s lack of understanding) Although Scout’s naivety sometimes hinders her from understanding some situations, she does her best to be polite and cogent. ( “Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one time, remember?...I go to school with Walter. He’s your boy, ain’t he? Ain’t he, sir?” ( p.156, regarding the mob of men outside the cell where Tom Robinson is being held overnight. Scout does not realize the gravity of the situation, nor how she single-handedly manages to avert potential harm from both her father and Mr. Robinson.)
Scout’s Definitive Qualities Tenacity—This sums up Scout’s persistent and stubborn behavior, particularly surrounding her social interactions status of tomboyishness. Although she is constantly reminded of how she should behave according to most of the female figures in her life, she shows resolve to act as a lady does within her own standards. “…by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl.” ( p.118, on watching Calpurnia working in the kitchen)
Scout’s Definitive Qualities Honesty—Scout has the common trait of a person with honesty in that she answers truthfully to others, and always so to Atticus. She speaks her mind plainly, and when seeking an answer she hardly ever beats fails to come to a concise point. “What’s rape?” (p.137, suddenly remembering to ask Atticus a question Calpurnia had shied from)
Scout’s Definitive Qualities Optimistic— Though Scout is young, she does understand the issues surrounding Maycomb, and she holds the belief that no matter what separates the groups of people, they are, essentially, just people. “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” (p.230, speaking with Jem about the groups of people in Maycomb, and what defines them)
Scout’s Devices Personification—In Scout’s narration, terms that encompass the town, a family, or a group as a whole are often personified to show an action or state of being that characterizes said group. “…that year, the school buzzed with talk about him defending Tom Robinson, none of which was complimentary.” (p. 94, on gossip in town)
Scout’s Speech Patterns While most of the Maycomb Community adopts a southern, slang-tinged manner of speaking, Scout has an in-between way that isn’t incredibly country like Walter Cunningham, nor is it in the realm of Atticus’s more refined southern lilt. Scout uses slang terms such as, “Shoot”, “Heck”, and “Ain’t”. She uses other phrases that she hears from Jem or schoolmates, like, “God Almighty” and “Aw, hell”. “What in the sam holy hill did you wait till tonight?” ( p.56, regarding Dill and Jem’s late-night escapades) Scout’s verbal expressions are based around what happens to be the heaviest influence in her life at that point, like in chapter 9 when she and Jem share a phase of cursing, or in the several chapters where she finds herself in the middle of an altercation. During those moments, her speech becomes abbreviated and rapid, much like Calpurnia when she is angry with one or both of the Finch children. “Pass the damn ham, please.”( p. 83, narration by Scout of phrase leading up to her chat with Uncle Jack about language use)
How Scout Relates to Themes Innocence—Being a child for the duration of the novel, save for the narration, we watch as Scout faces the growing period between childhood and early adulthood. At this time, she is learning about life and what it entails, as well as what she must do to become what her father and her morals expect of her. We see her firsthand experience with evil and human nature, as well as pure human compassion. “The world’s endin’, Atticus! Please do somethin’—!” (p.68, regarding Scout’s first encounter with snow.) “Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.” (p.281, on what Boo had done for them while not really knowing them, and even though they hadn’t returned the favor)
How Scout Relates to Themes Prejudice—Contrary to the majority of the white community of Maycomb, Scout shows a natural aversion to racial prejudice, and despite her lack of knowledge in that area. Atticus nurtures her opinion that race makes no attribute to what kind of person someone is. Scout lives in a world of both races, learning from both her father and Calpurnia, the only mother figure she has. This advantage gives her a small insight into both worlds, and she comes up with a logical conclusion. “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
Atticus’s Definitive Qualities Patient—Atticus shows incredible patience in all of his endeavors, most notably with his curious and at times, troublesome children. He exhibits a level of calm continually that most cannot achieve on their best days, and he strives for understanding and compassion when dealing with matters that are stressful. “That’ll do, Scout…Don’t kick folks.” (p. 155, before Scout’s short but powerful one-sided conversation, she kicks a mob member after he grabs at Jem. Atticus calmly and respectfully reprimands her in order to stave off any further violence) Atticus’s talent for staying calm in situations like the mob scene in chapter 15 add to the powerful contrast he sets against most of the Maycomb community.
Atticus’s Definitive Qualities Ethical—Atticus uses logic, education, and personal observations to base his standard of behavior. His ethics are different from many inhabitants of Maycomb, and this causes him and his family to endure an amount of ridicule from the white community during his representation of Tom Robinson. “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” –Mrs. Dubose (p. 106, to Scout about her father) Realistic—While applying good ethical conventions to his public and personal life, Atticus does not have any disillusions about the social expectations in Maycomb. He is well aware of how his ethics clash with the white community, as well as the amount of change necessary to influence the population enough to create racial equality. “'It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.'" (p. 116, on the reality of his case.)
Atticus’s Definitive Qualities Leniency—Atticus uses a hands-off approach to raise his children, allowing them ample freedoms while still maintaining parental authority. He uses leniency not only in disciplining his children, but in his career as the go-to attorney for most of Maycomb. As a reasonably well-off business man during the Depression Era, he realizes the financial strain of his fellow townspeople, and bargains with them on the payment for his services. An example of this is Walter Cunningham paying in hickory nuts instead of cash.
Atticus’s Devices Symbolism—By using the mockingbird as a literal and figurative example of innocence, Atticus is using symbolism to convey a point. “'Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”( p.94, on why not to shoot mockingbirds.)
Atticus’s Speech Patterns Atticus’s speech reflects his education—he rarely abbreviates words like his children, and he rarely uses improper grammar. “So Judge Taylor excuses him. Sometimes he excuses him wrathfully.”( p.224, regarding Jem’s query about juries.)
How Atticus Relates to Themes Evil—Atticus represents the aversion of evil, the “good”. He works for equality, for justice, for respect, and displays an example for the rest of Maycomb to follow. “As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it-whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” (p.233, to Jem about racial equality)
How Atticus relates to Themes Innocence— The theme of “mockingbirds” represents innocence, and how people, indirectly or not, mar it. The literal usage of mockingbirds by Atticus shows the innocent bird, who does nothing but make music, nothing but sing his heart out. In this respect, he also represents perseverance against evil, and the strive for good to prevail. “Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed." (p.244, Narrator Scout on the case against T. Robinson)
Mayella’s Definitive Qualities Weakness—Mayella’s upbringing has imprinted a permanent fear of her father, and men in general. The one man she thought she could exert power over was Tom Robinson, being that she perceived herself to be his superior. The scorn and dismay on her part of his rejection, mixed with the anger and abuse of her father forced her to make a decision, and her fear of Mr. Ewell influenced her to take the weaker route, and simply blame it on Tom. “What was the evidence of her offense? Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson was a daily reminder of what she did…No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards.” (p. 206, Atticus on Mayella’s reasoning)
Mayella’s Definitive Qualities Racist—If Mayella had grown up under different circumstances, she may not have had the same assumptions about race that her family and most of Maycomb have adopted. Racism is a defining quality for this particular character, as it is the primary reason for the conflict of her legal action against Tom Robinson. Had she not felt Tom her subordinate, Mayella would most likely not have made her advances, thus eliminating the case entirely.
Mayella’s Definitive Qualities Impressionable—Due to her lack of education, her lack of parental guidance, as well as her lack of culture, Mayella has not developed her own set of moral standards. This hinders her judgment, and she adopts the path of a cliff-bound lemming, simply following the leader, who is in this case, her father, whose racist and uneducated ways are forced upon Mayella and her siblings. She seems to accept that she is basically not allowed to think for herself, or perhaps she chooses not to in order to simplify her life. Whatever the case may be, Mayella’s lack of personal will is part of the essence of her character. “I guess if she hadn’t been poor and ignorant, Judge Taylor would have put her under the jail for the contempt she had shown everybody in the courtroom.” (p. 190, Narrator on Mayella in court)
Mayella’s Speech Patterns Mayella uses heavy country slang and heavy abbreviation; she also has limited understanding of grammatical usage. She has limited vocabulary, and has had very little if nonexistent formal education. “ That’n yonder.” (p.182, regarding Tom Robinson in court) “Seb’n.” (p. 185, on the number of siblings she has)
Mayella’s Devices Mayella did not appear to use any literary device I could find, however, one put forth by Scout’s narration seemed an apropos simile for its use to describe Mayella in court. “Apparently Mayella’s recital had given her confidence, but it was not her father’s brash kind: there was something stealthy about hers, like a steady-eyed cat with a twitchy tail.” (p.188, Scout’s narration of Mayella’s testimony)
How Mayella Relates to Themes Evil—The combination of ignorance and malice in Mayella promotes the theme of evil, as the character Mayella is one who “kills a mockingbird”, in the figurative sense that she doomed Tom Robinson to save herself from shame. “That nigger yonder took advantage of me an’ if you fine fancy gentlemen don’t wanta do nothing about it then you’re all yellow stinking cowards…” (p. 190, Mayella’s final statement to the court)
How Mayella Relates to Themes Ignorance—While a number of factors are involved in the development of Mayella’s brand of thought, her main problem lies in the lack of social and formal education about the world outside Maycomb and beyond the garbage dump. Her ignorance mixed with her shame influenced her (aside from her father) to allege rape against an innocent man. Her ignorance not only plays a role in Tom’s conviction, but as a part of the image cast upon the entire Ewell family. “…if she hadn’t been so poor and ignorant, Judge Taylor would have put her under the jail for the contempt she had shown everybody in the courtroom.” ( p. 190, Scout’s reflection on Mayella’s behavior in court)
Heck Tate’s Definitive Qualities Forthright—Heck is a hardworking, honest man, and he does his best as the sheriff to fulfill his duties to the innocent and help convict offenders. Heck believes in equality, making his unusual for most in Maycomb(not to mention most of the general white community up until the period of integration in the late sixties and seventies). During Tom’s trial, Heck gives his account of the events with little to no bias. In any case, it might seem that he picks up on Atticus’s train of thought during the examination, and tries to aid in disproving the Ewells’ allegations. “The right side, Mr. Finch, but she had more bruises—you wanta hear about ‘em?” (p. 171, during his testimony)
Heck Tate’s Definitive Qualities Fairness—Heck gives equal standing to both the black and white inhabitants of Maycomb, and does not often use ethnic slurs. He uses simple color references in indicating race. “There’s a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for it is dead.”( p. 278, on Bob Ewell’s death)
Heck Tate’s Definitive Qualities Helpful—Heck’s job necessities include a certain amount of people skills, but regardless he holds a good disposition amongst the regular townspeople. An example of this is that rather than making his job and social life easier, he is impartial (if not slightly partial to Tom) during Tom Robinson’s trial. “Yes, sir she had a small throat, anyone could’ve reached around it…” (p.171, in court testimony)
Heck Tate’s Speech Patterns Heck has a similar speech pattern to Miss Maudie; not too country with some abbreviation and southern phrasing. “ I never heard tell that it’s against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed…” (p. 278, regarding Boo Radley)
Heck Tate’s Devices Heck Tate uses a metaphor at the end of the novel, regarding Bob Ewell’s death and the death of Tom Robinson, both unexpected, both avoidable. His metaphor translates to mean that in the end, Robinson and Ewell were even. “Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch.” (p. 278, Heck’s metaphor about justice, and perhaps, irony)
How Heck Tate Relates to Themes Innocence—In Heck’s profession, protection for the public comes with a certain degree of responsibility to the sheriff, and the personal cost of his job renders no apparent phasing for him. His job is to protect the innocent, and he does so. “Mister Finch, hold on. Jem never stabbed Bob Ewell.” (p. 275, after Ewell’s death)
How Heck Tate Relates to Themes Compassion—Heck represents compassion for others in the stand-off between good and evil. His character is kind, good-natured, and above all, fair. Equality and educated thinking are two things lacking in Maycomb, and even if Heck has not had formal education, he naturally seems to realize that the differences between people lie not in their skin colors, but in their actions.
Boo Radley’s Definitive Qualities Unobtrusive—Boo prefers his life inside his house, and reaches out to others on his own terms. He keeps his privacy, and allows others the very same. An example of this is in chapter 8 during Miss Maudie’s house fire, when Boo leaves Scout with a blanket to keep warm in the harsh cold. He does so unnoticed, and never takes credit for it. He uses the same method when returning Jem’s pants in chapter 6—by simply leaving them repaired and folded on the fence. He prefers to stay at a distance, but he remains helpful nonetheless.
Boo Radley’s Definitive Qualities Simple—Boo’s interaction with Jem and Scout is usually very simple, with no complexity. Though he is mysterious to them, that simply adds to his simplicity, in that he removes the personal element. Essentially, neither party knows anything about the other, giving their interactions a certain “Secret Santa” quality. “When I went back they were folded across the fence…like they was expectin’ me.” (p. 63, on Jem retrieving his pants)
Boo Radley’s Definitive Qualities Good-natured—Boo has no outside human contact, his brother is the only contact he knows, and even Mr. Radley seems standoffish and introverted, yet he has a developed sense of natural selflessness.
Boo Radley’s Speech Patterns Boo only speaks once, but when he does it is simple and moving. Scout realizes there is something unusual about Boo once she meets him (she’s known he is unusual for some time, but meeting him shows a different strange quality), and she does what she can in the midst of the dilemma with Atticus and Sheriff Tate. When Boo speaks to her, it’s like the voice of a frightened child, and without further conversation, Scout walks him home. To me, this is a powerful example of how simple human needs can be, and how sometimes speaking isn’t really necessary. Boo and Scout understood each other without words, and were able to give a strange sort of human contact as well as maintain a comfortable distance. “Will you take me home?” (p. 281, Boo’s only sentence)
Boo Radley’s Devices Symbolism—Boo uses the soap dolls as representations of Scout and Jem, the only tangible friends he has ever known. Boo not only uses symbolism—Boo is a symbol used by the author to show innocence, and how ignorance damages it.