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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird


by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird Jean Louise Finch (Scout) Quotes

"Read it out loud, please, Atticus. It's real scary."

"No," he said. "You've had enough scaring for a while. This is too-"

"Atticus, I wasn't scared."

He raised his eyebrows, and I protested: "Leastways not till I started telling Mr. Tate about it. Jem wasn't scared. Asked him and he said he wasn't. Besides, nothin's real scary except in books." (31.43-46)

Is Scout telling the truth about not being scared, or is this a white lie for Atticus's benefit, like Mr. Raymond's "drinking"? Scout suggests that telling the story of scary events is more fear-inducing than actually living through them—which fits with her not getting upset about the lynch mob until after she was safe at home in bed and started thinking about what happened. But Atticus himself was scared in the present moment that night. Maybe this is another difference between adults and children, or maybe it's just a quirk of the way Scout herself sees the world. (If you ask us, both are scary. We'll just be over here hiding under the blankets.)

I was not so sure, but Jem told me I was being a girl, that girls always imagined things, that's why other people hated them so, and if I started behaving like one I could just go off and find some to play with. (4.119)

Coming down firmly on the "nurture" side of the gender debate, Scout believes from an early age that girl things are bad (and probably have cooties) and boy things are good, and that she can avoid the badness of girls by not acting one. Being a girl for Scout is less a matter of what she's born with and more a matter of what she does.

[Calpurnia] seemed glad to see me when I appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl. (12.8)

Until now, being a girl has been what happens when Scout fails to live up to Jem's standards of what a person should be. Watching Calpurnia, Scout realizes that being a girl actually involves having positive traits instead of lacking them.