To Kill A Mockingbird Essay: Gender Roles and Feminism

To Kill A Mockingbird Essay: Gender Roles and Feminism

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Gender Roles and Feminism in To Kill a Mockingbird


When the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was written by Harper Lee, the Southern United States was still clinging tightly to traditional values. Southern societies pressured men to behave as gentlemen, and women were expected to be polite and wear dresses. These stringent gender roles were adhered to in small southern towns because they were isolated from the more progressive attitudes in other areas of the United States. Harper Lee documents the life of one young girl growing up in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Jean Louise Finch, also known as "Scout," is a young girl searching for her identity. Scout, a young tomboy, is pressured by adults who insist she should conform to the traditional role of a southern lady. Harper Lee establishes and promotes Jean’s masculinity through the use of nicknames, fighting, and masculine clothing, while contrasting her with women that fit the stereotypical female model.  

In traditional society, parents name children according to their gender. Common names for boys include John, Robert and James, whereas Elizabeth, Sarah, and Cathy represent standard names for girls. The author gives her main character two common female titles, Jean Louise. Many southern females have two first names which reinforces their role in society as a Southern Belle, or a traditional southern lady. Lee contrasts this extremely feminine name with her masculine label, Scout. "'Scout, I'm [Jem] tellin' you for the last time, shut your trap or go home - I declare to the Lord you're gettin' more like a girl every day'" (52). It seems interesting Lee assigns Jean Louise such a manly name. Although the nickname accurately describes her personality, it does not seem a...


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...she describes the pompous women. The author uses the women's conversations to emphasize the reasons Scout remains a tomboy and refuses the traits of Maycomb females.

Harper Lee provides the reader with several examples of typical Maycomb females. She establishes Scout's masculinity with fighting and explains her demeanor by contrasting it with the typical female adults of the novel. The author also allows Jean Louise to wear masculine clothing and gives her a manly nickname. Therefore, the author favors Scout's unique personality and implies women do not have to act in a stereotypical manner. The book might inspire young girls to become independent and create their own unique personalities. To Kill a Mockingbird emerges as an important novel that contradicts female society and suggests that girls should not feel pressure to act in scripted "womanly" roles.

 

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