Analyze the Childhood World of Jem, Scout, and Dill and Their Relationship With Boo Radley in Part One
In 1960, American writer Harper Lee published a novel that became immediately popular and successful. To Kill a Mockingbird is considered a classic of modern American literature (Milton 3-4). The plot and the characters are based on observations of the author’s surrounding: family, relatives, neighbors, and an event that happened near her hometown when Harper was 10 years old. The story is divided into two parts, which depict the children’s world and the jarring nature of the adults’ and children’s worlds.
The main story takes place in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the years of the Great Depression. The narrator is a little girl, Scout Finch (6 years old), who lives with her brother Jem and father Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer. Jem and Scout have their best friend named Dill, who stays with his aunt for the summer. All of them have to live through the time when Finch’s family is condemned for Atticus’s defense of a black man who was falsely accused of raping a white girl. In that novel, the cruel and unjust world of adults interweaves with the innocent, fantastic, and naive world of children. They learn the lessons of the grownups’ world through the whole story but stand that lesson with dignity. The innocent children had to grow up in the adult world with a number of negative elements.
Analyzing the first part of the novel, great attention should be paid to the childhood world of Jem, Scout, and Dill, and especially to their relationship with Boo Radley.
Atticus raised Scout and Jem. They found their father satisfactory: he played with them, read to them, and treated them with courteous detachment (Lee 3). Their mother died when Jem was six and Scout two years old. Scout did not miss her, but Jem did. He remembered her clearly, and sometimes in the middle of a game, he would sign at length, then go off and play by himself behind the car-house (3). Though, their cook Calpurnia was the closest person to a mother that Atticus’s children had. She taught them everything she could and was a good but strict friend. Scout and Jem were almost the only children in their street. They had no other problems than to do their duties at home and study. Every day they had to deal with adults, who were stern and friendly at the same time and taught them manners, rules of behavior, and gave them valuable life lessons. That’s the reason why To Kill a Mockingbird is also treated as a pedagogical novel (Heath 1-5).
Dill, a boy-neighbor, was from Meridian, Mississippi. He would spend the summer with his aunt, Miss Rachel, and would be spending every summer in Maycomb (Lee 4). He didn’t know his biological father and was raised by his mother and relatives. He usually pretended to be someone he was not. During the story, he lied a lot about his family, adventures, and life. Dill’s great imagination helped him, and he did it not just for fun. Unlike Atticus’ children, Dill lacked the security of family life. He felt replaced by the stepfather and unloved and not wanted by his parents (76). Dill had no home and was passed around from relative to relative (44-45). His childhood is not a happy one, unlike Jem and Scout, but his impassioned imagination helped him to overcome troubles, and it helped him forget all the bad things in his life. His head teemed with eccentric plans, strange longings, and quaint fancies (4).
All free time in summer Dill, Jem, and Scout spent on games and role-plays. During these times, their imagination had no borders. However, they got tired of this type of entertainment too soon. They started paying attention to the town’s myth about Boo Radley, who was nearly thirty-three years old when the events of the story took place (Lee 6). No one knew what exactly had happened to him and why no one saw him for a very long time. The legend told that as a young man Arthur “Boo” Radley had some problems with the law, and his father, a very severe man, took care of him to make no further trouble, instead of attending the industrial school (5-6). He seemed to be not just arrested in the room, but Arthur was in complete isolation from the world. The Radleys were reserved even before, but after the incident, their family was extolled with mystery, gossip, and guesses. The town’s gossip fable that each night Boo Radley had a walk and looked into neighbors windows, ran wild and got mad, was great ground for children to use their imagination and to create Boo Radley’s portrait: a horrible man who stabs people with scissors and eats animals. Their innocent attitude to the world played a bad joke: they trusted their imagination, not facts. Arthur started as a mysterious man, but then a unique relationship connected all of them. That connection was started by Dill’s attempt to get Boo out of the house, his idea of role-playing Boo’s life. Arthur looked after the children in his own way to be sure they were safe from any harm. His little presents, such as when he mended Jem’s trousers and warmed Scout’s shoulders during the night fire (the actual facts and actions), made the children understand he wasn’t a person to be afraid of (Heath 1-5).
The innocent world of childhood represented in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird dealt with a great number of elements of the grownup world. So, it changed the relationships between people, especially with Boo. It does not matter if your childhood is happy or not, you need a good friend, real or mysterious, to overcome your problems together, whatever they are. The children found a person to be interested in, to be afraid of, and to make friends with despite the fact that they were so different and sometimes scared. They changed their attitude to many things, and each day they grew up and lost their illusions about the world around them, learning the facts and dispelling the myths.
Heath, Samuel.To Kill a Mockingbird: A Critique on Behalf of Children. iUniverse, Inc., 2007.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird: The 40th Anniversary Edition. HarperCollins, 1999.
Milton, Joyce and Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird. Barron’s Educational Series, 1984.
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