Examine the Themes of Innocence and Experience in To Kill a Mockingbird

Examine the Themes of Innocence and Experience in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Examine the Themes of Innocence and Experience in To Kill a Mockingbird

Innocence is a time when a person has never done something; it is the
first step of the journey from innocence to experience. The second
step in this movement is experience and this is what is achieved after
a person has done something they have never done before or learns
something they have never known before. This theme of growth from
innocence to experience occurs many times in To Kill a Mockingbird and
is one of the central themes in the first part of the novel, because
it shows how Jem and Scout change and mature over a small period of
time. Jem, Scout and Dill find ways to use their boundaries, in
conjunction with their imaginations to amuse themselves by creating
games based on adult behaviour. As the children move through the
novel, they use these games to develop from their innocence to
experience by defining the realities of their games through the lives
of the adults. Through their own games and through the games of the
adults, the children learn values of respect, courage, and
understanding.

The story is told by Scout, a mature narrator looking back on herself
as a child. Scout’s naivety and childish view of the world is
highlighted by the reader, often understanding events better than
Scout herself.

The first example of Scout moving from innocence to experience is in
Chapter 2, when Scout unwillingly begins school. Her fellow pupil,
Walter Cunningham, refuses to borrow some money from Miss Caroline to
buy lunch, however Miss Caroline will not accept this refusal. Scout
enters the conversation and tries to explain this matter but is
consequently punished. She then retaliates, resulting in a fight with
Waler which ...


... middle of paper ...


...ever, the main example of innocence in the novel is also in Chapter
10, when the children are given air rifles for Christmas. Atticus
says ‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but
remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’. The mockingbird represents
innocence. Like hunters who kill mockingbirds for sport, people kill
innocence, or other people who are innocent, without thinking about
what they are doing. Atticus stands firm in his defense of innocence
and urges his children not to shoot mockingbirds both literally and
figuratively. This is also in the title of To Kill a Mockingbird and
it has very little literal connection to the plot, but it carries a
great deal of symbolic weight. In this story of innocence destroyed by
evil, the ‘mockingbird’ comes to represent the idea of innocence.
Thus, to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence.

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