To Kill A Mockingbird Characters

Brief character analysis of Scout, Jem, Atticus, Boo, Tom and the Ewells (Mayella and Bob).

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  • Created by: Rebecca
  • Created on: 16-11-11 16:44


Scout is the protagonist of the novel and we see the whole novel through her eyes. The language of the book is adult in style, because Scout is recounting memories of her childhood. She is an innocent 6 year old who has no experience with the evils of the world at the start of the novel and around 9 at the end. Scout has her first contact with evil in the form of racial prejudice. The basic development of her character is governed by the question of whether she will emerge from that contact with her conscience and optimism intact or whether she will be bruised, hurt, or destroyed like Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Thanks to Atticus’s wisdom, Scout learns that though humanity has a great capacity for evil, it also has a great capacity for good. Though she is still a child at the end of the book, Scout’s perspective on life develops from that of an innocent child into that of a near grown-up. She is intelligent, has a strong will and a hot temper, which often gets her into trouble with adults e.g. Aunt Alexandra and her teacher. Her character changes as the novel progresses as she starts to look at things from other people's point of view e.g. she learns to understand the feelings of Boo and her aunt, and also respects the changes in Jem. Having a child's mind and approach to life is often shown in the novel to be an advantage e.g. when Atticus faces the lynch mob. Scout illustrates the importance of developing an open and unprejudiced mind of one's own. 

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Jem is Scout's brother. He is 10 at the start of the novel and 13 at the end. His character develops as he reaches adolescence. At the beginning of the novel, Jem enjoys normal childhood activities, like playing football, but as the story progresses he becomes more moody; is less willing to join in games with Scout and Dill and prefers to be on his own. The difference in ages between Scout and Jem is showed many times throughout the novel. On only one occasion does Jem explode with anger - when he ruins Mrs Dubose's camellias. After this incident he learns a lot about personal courage and ultimately realises that Mrs Dubose is brave and courageous. His disillusionment upon seeing that justice does not always prevail leaves him vulnerable and confused at a critical, formative point in his life. Atticus tells Scout that Jem simply needs time to process what he has learned. Later in his life, Jem is able to see that Boo Radley’s unexpected aid indicates there is good in people. He also understands that Boo stays indoors because he wants to, and not for all the childhood reasons he, Scout and Dill had once thought. Even before the end of the novel, Jem shows signs of having learned a positive lesson from the trial; for instance, at the beginning of Chapter 25, he refuses to allow Scout to squash a roly-poly bug because it has done nothing to harm her. After seeing the unfair destruction of Tom Robinson, Jem now wants to protect the fragile and harmless. Jem develops a keen sense of responsibility e.g. when he tells Atticus that Dill is in the house. He becomes more protective of his sister and develops a tactfulness and a way of words which is down to Atticus' strong presence and guidance.

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Atticus is the father of Scout and Jem and, with the help of Calpurnia, is raising his children on his own. He stands out as a man of reason and courage. In the face of the prejudice and strong emotions of the people of Maycomb, he tries to make his children see that it's better to use one's head than to resort to violence. He shows considerable bravery during Tom Robinson's trial, despite the likely unjust outcome. He is driven by the strong belief in the equality of people before the law and says: 'the one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.' Ironically, even though Atticus is a highly respected man in Maycomb, neither Jem nor Scout consciously idolizes him at the beginning of the novel. Both are embarrassed that he is older than other fathers. However, his wise parenting and teachings ultimately win their respect. Although he gives his children considerable freedom, he demands high standards of courtesy, honesty and good manners from them. He is very fair and listens to both sides of the arguments. He represents the voice of truth and fairness in the community. However, his faith in the goodness of man leads him to underestimate Bob Ewell. He recognizes that people have both good and bad qualities, and he is determined to admire the good while understanding and forgiving the bad. Atticus passes this great moral lesson on to Scout—this perspective protects the innocent from being destroyed by contact with evil. Atticus is characterized throughout the book by his absolute consistency. He stands rigidly committed to justice and thoughtfully willing to view matters from the perspectives of others.

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Boo Radley

Arthur Radley, who is known as Boo to the children, is a figure of fear and mystery at the beginning of the story. He is a 'phanton' or 'monster' in the minds of the children which shows their childhood innocence and ignorance, because they judge him without seeing, or knowing, him. The communities fear exaggerates his activities. Boo gradually emerges as a very different sort of person from the way the children imagine him to be. For example, he leaves them gifts in a tree; he mends Jem's trousers and covers Scout's shoulders with a blanket. The first time the children meet Boo is when he saves them from being killed by Bob Ewell. He is very different from the monster of their imagination, or the man described by the community. He is a gentle, quiet and very shy man. After the Tom Robinson trial Scout and Jem begin to understand Boo more. Having seen a sample of the horrible things their fellow townspeople can do, choosing to stay out of the mess of humanity doesn’t seem like such a strange choice. After re-entering his house at the end of the novel and never being seen again, his character suggests that the bonds that hold a community together can be more than just social ones. He is a powerful symbol of goodness swathed in an initial shroud of creepiness and being an intelligent child emotionally damaged by his cruel father, Boo provides an example of the threat that evil poses to innocence and goodness. He is one of the novel’s “mockingbirds,” a good person injured by the evil of mankind.

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Tom Robinson

Tom is a black man who is falsely accused of ****** a white woman. He is hard-working family man. As the novel progresses it becomes apparent that Maycomb doesn't approve of Atticus defending him; Scout is taunted at school and a lynch mob waits at the jail to administer vigilante justice on Tom. As the trial unfolds it becomes increasingly apparent that Tom could not have ***** Mayella Ewell e.g. the right side of her face was bruised and his arm that would have caused the damage was crippled since childhood. There is no way he could have hit her, held her down and ***** her with only one arm. He is respected as high as a black man could have been e.g. he's held in high esteem by his former employer and the black members of the town. The fact that he had been honest enough to admit that Mayella made sexual advances towards him angers the racist members of the community. Sadly, he is found guilty and shot in an attempt to escape. Tom is one of the novel’s “mockingbirds,” an important symbol of innocence destroyed by evil.

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The Ewells

Mayella, being the eldest of the Ewell children, lives a miserable and lonely existence. She is despised by whites and prohibited from befriending blacks. She breaks a social taboo by trying to seduce a black man, and then reacts with cowardice by accusing him of **** and perjuring against him in court. We can somewhat sympathise with Mayella, because of her abusive father and poor background, but ultimately her treatment of Tom poses her as an antagonist.

Bob, Mayella's father, is a drunken, mostly unemployed, member of Maycomb’s poorest family. He has no ambition to improve his life, or the lives of his eight motherless children, and instead spends his welfare checks on whiskey and has the local landowners turn a blind eye to his poaching activities out of pity for his hungry children. In his knowingly wrongful accusation that Tom Robinson ****d his daughter, he represents the dark side of the South: ignorance, poverty, squalor, and hate-filled racial prejudice.

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