Having the events of To Kill a Mockingbird articulated by the raw and uninformed mind of a child allows for readers to grasp the uneasy concepts of race, inequality, and justice easier than though an adult. An adult, with his or her biases already developed and cultivated, can shift the narrative in one or another direction. However, our narrator process new information at the same time the reader does, and Atticus’s explanations of events to his daughter help clarify her and our understanding of American society in essentially real time. Take the mob scene for instance. Scout doesn’t entirely understand the Klan nor mobs in general. As Atticus explains it, mobs are made up of our disgruntled peers and are powerless so long as we allow them to be. Because of this, scout is more understanding of her community and is less likely to fall victim to her peer’s racist beliefs. Same goes for when Jem and his sister visit Atticus in the county jail. Through a Childs perspective, readers see the raw information related to incarcerated black Americans in Alabama. The focus is not what these men did, but the conditions they are in and the atmosphere of the jail, then, the thoughts and feelings an unbiased child has toward the situation. This choice by the author lets readers focus more on American society and how it operated as a whole at the time rather than a specific view on American society.
This fact was not made relevant to me until reading To Kill a Mockingbird a second time. I think, had this story been told through Atticus, then it would be about representing a black man in Alabama during a period of intense racism. had it been told through the eyes of Tom Robinson, then it would be about being a black man on trial in Alabama. However, telling To Kill a Mockingbird through Scout helps Harper Lee get his points and ideas across to readers more easily and allow readers a larger depth of interpretation.
One thought on “A Child’s Perspective”
I’m really intrigued by this final speculation about what the novel might be like had it been written from Atticus’s perspective. There are some real differences between how Atticus and Scout inhabit the world that we should talk more about – though of course it’s also important that Scout is not a lawyer, and arguably there is always something about the law (or any profession) that’s more visible to those who don’t practice it than to those who do. Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy gives you some sense of what “this story” might look like if written from the lawyer’s point of view, though of course it is not incidental that the lawyer writing that story is Black!