Narrative Elements: Point of View

Point of View

Scout Finch is not only the most important character in the novel, she is also the narrator. Everything that happens is seen through her eyes. However, unlike most first-person narratives, she does not confine the narrative to things that she has directly experienced - for example she recounts stories from the history of Simon Finch, and repeats what other people tell her, so that we see other viewpoints as people speak, making it possible for the reader to compare them.

The author's decision to use a child to tell the story is a very important element in To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout had no comprehension of the complex web of sexual fears and racial prejudice that made so many white Southerners recoil in horror at the very idea of sexual contact between a white woman and a black man. It is not even clear that Scout ever understands what rape is, even though she claims to understand.

The voice you hear telling the story of the novel is actually that of the adult Jean Louise Finch telling you about events that happened when she was a child.
(a) At what points in the novel do you become aware of this?
(b) Did you find the narrative shifts distracting? Why or Why not?
How are the two perspectives - the knowing adult's and the innocent child's - developed in the narration?
What advantages does the author have as a result of being able to move from one perspective to the other?
How does the adult Jean Louise create suspense by hinting at certain developments in the story?
How does the adult narrator's reflections contribute to your understanding of the people of Maycomb?
Scout ages two years - from six to eight - over the course of Lee's novel.
(a) Did you find the account her narrator provides believable?
(b) Were there incidents or observations in the book that seemed unusually "knowing" for such a young child?
(c) What event or episode in Scout's story do you feel truly captures her personality?
As you read the story do you see things from one viewpoint or does the viewpoint change?
Does the author manage to show convincingly the viewpoint of characters younger than herself (such as Scout, Jem, Dill and Walter)?
How far does the author signal to you, as the reader, which views are "right", and how far does she allow you freedom to make your own judgments?
W. E. B. DuBoise speaks of "double-consciousness" - the sense of having to look at oneself through the eyes of others. Which characters in To Kill A Mockingbird are basically forced to look at themselves through the lens of others, being expected to behave as other people want them to behave?
Do you believe that the sense of "double consciousness" is still strong in our present society? That is, to what extent are people of different ethnicities, social classes, genders, and age levels essentially defined by others today? To what extent do you feel that you are forced to behave according to other's views of you? How are you affected when others define you? Consider how the person doing the defining is affected.
Is some measure of "double consciousness" inevitable in human relations and in society? Why, or why not?