The novel contains many characters through whom we are able to understand the events that take place in the novel and the knock-on effects these have on people. It is important to pay particular attention to the characterisation of the children, Jem, Scout and Dill who gain life experiences and grow as they face different situations and interact with the adults in the book.
It is crucial to think of how you respond and feel towards each of the main characters and to consider why this may be the case; are some of the characters portrayed as one dimensional, are there others that show greater depth and an ability to change on a personal level to the events that shape their lives. Think about the strengths and weaknesses, the flaws and good points of each character and what this may represent in terms of the message the novel is trying to convey.
Jean Louise (Scout) Finch
- Lives with her father, Atticus, her brother, Jem, and their black cook, Calpurnia.
- Scout is 6 years old at the beginning of the novel and 9 years old at the end.
- Story is told from Scout’s point of view (First person narrative). It is however told by Scout as a grown up as she reflects on events that happened years before.
- Scout and her family are very close and spend much time together.
- Scout is very intelligent and was able to read and write before starting school.
- Scout could be considered as something of a Tom boy.
- Scout feels bored and unchallenged in school.
- She is unafraid to stand up to people who insult Atticus
- She has a basic belief in the goodness of human nature.
- She does not realise Atticus is in danger as he stands guard outside Tom Robinson’s cell.
- Scout develops a more grown up way of looking at life and becomes able to appreciate human goodness without ignoring human evil.
- Father to Jem and Scout
- A lawyer in Maycomb and descended from a local family.
- His wife died when Scout was 2. He is bringing his children up with the help and Calpurnia.
- It is clear he loves his children and that he has instilled a strong sense of morality and justice in them.
- Unlike many others in Maycomb, he is committed to racial equality.
- He takes on Tom Robinson’s case, saying “every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally”
- The voice of reason in Maycomb and in the novel.
- He exposes himself and his family to the anger of the white community when choosing to take on Tom’s case.
- Provides the moral backbone of the novel.
- He sees the best in people and admires them for their courage (Mrs Dubose overcoming a morphine addiction).
Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem)
- Son of Atticus and older brother of Scout.
- He is rarely to be seen far from Scout at home but becomes increasingly aware of the age gap between them as the novel progresses and is embarrassed to be seen with her at school.
- He loves and respects his father and becomes angry at Mrs Dubose resulting in him wrecking her garden.
- He is brave and sees himself as such. He shows his bravery when he goes to the Radley’s house to collect his trousers after having been shot at.
- HE is quick thinking and intelligent, he is the first to work our Boo Radley had been trying to communicate with them.
- He appears to be the only person in town who believes the right outcome will be achieved at the trial and Tom will be found innocent.
- He is deeply affected by the trial and the outcome and struggles to talk about it.
- It could be considered that Jem’s broken arm at the end of the play is a sign of how permanently would he has become by the trial.
“Boo” Arthur Radley
- Object of intrigue for Jem, Scout and Dill.
- He is a recluse and has lived just down the road from the Finches for many years.
- He is mentioned from the very beginning of the book: “It began the summer when Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out”.
- Many rumours circulate around Maycomb concerning Boo and his family. He is described by Jem as a “malevolent phantom”. Often these rumours tell us more about the people spreading them than about Boo himself, think about Mrs Crawford who spreads gossip and thinks that Boo is a peeping Tom, also about Miss Maudie (a generally optimistic woman) who is certain Boo is a victim being raised in an over-strict manner by his father.
- Boo was an intelligent child who has been emotionally damaged by his cruel father.
- An example of the damage forces of evil can inflict upon the innocent and good.
- One of the novel’s ‘mockingbirds’, an innocent, good person damaged by the evil that mankind can cause.
- He is a powerful symbol of goodness that is surrounded by evil acts and intentions.
- Shows his goodness by leaving presents in the tree for the children and also coming to the rescue of Scout and Jem when Bob Ewell attacks them.
- She is the Finches black cook and housekeeper.
- Mother figure and stern disciplinarian
- Provides a bridge for the children between the white and black segments of the community.
- She has no idea how old she is and her own children are now adults.
- Part of the family since Jem’s birth. “I felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember” – Scout.
- Stern but very kind.
- She is trusted by Atticus and he looks to her for support in raising the children. He considers her part of the family.
- Provides insight for the children into the black community when she takes them to church.
- Well educated, she learned to read and write from old law books. She speaks very well (in the presence of the Finches) and teaches Scout to read.
- She is not accepted by everyone; Atticus’ white friends look down upon her as a servant and are shocked he speaks openly in front of her. Conversely, people at the black church are critical of her being very close with her white employer. Her world is divided, when in the presence of the Finches she speaks educated English, when at the black church she reverts back to their local dialect.
- Atticus depends on her. He will not let her go when Aunt Alexandra visits and he takes her with him to break the news of Tom’s death to his wife.
- Has a sense of self-worth and is not affected by other people’s views or opinions. She has not allowed herself to become bitter and has made the most of the opportunities that have been presented to her.
- A black field hand who is later falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell.
- Lives amongst the black community with his wife and children.
- He is a kind, respectable and humble person.
- Helped Mayella Ewell with her chores, befriending her as he felt sorry for her.
- Tom spurns the sexual advances of Mayella leading her and her father to accuse him of rape.
- Tom is a victim of the stereotypes perpetuated throughout the white community and pays the price for this.
- Atticus knows that Tom is innocent but also knows that they will lose the trial because Tom is black.
- Tom’s doesn’t have full use of his left arm as a result of being injured in a farming accident, this makes it impossible for him to have caused the injuries to Mayella that she claims he did.
- The judgment Tom is does not arrive from the facts of the case, but out of the stereotypes, preconceived ideas and perceptions about black people that clouded the minds and hearts of every jury member and citizen of the town.
- Tom is killed when trying to escape from prison. “I guess Tom was tired of taking white men’s chances and preferred to take his own” – Atticus about Tom.
- Tom is one of the novel’s “mockingbirds,” an important symbol of innocence destroyed by evil.
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