Innocence To Experience, In Harper Lees To Kill A

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Innocence To Experience, In Harper Lees To Kill A Mockingbird

Innocence to Experience




"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the
streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square."(Lee
9). This environment, as Scout Finch accurately describes, is not conducive to young children, loud
noises, and games. But, the Finch children and Dill must occupy themselves in order to avoid
boredom. Their surroundings are their boundaries, but in their minds, they have no physical confines.
Although the physical "boundaries were Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose's house two doors to the
north..., and the Radley Place three doors to the south,"(Lee 11) Jem, Scout, and Dill find ways to
use the limits, in conjunction with their imaginations, to amuse themselves. The children are the ones
who change the old town and make it full of unexpected events. In the same way as the children, the
adults of the novel play games that come from their imaginations and, they themselves are the ones
who provide the fear for everyone in the county to fear. "Maycomb County had recently been told
that it had nothing to fear but fear itself"(10). The adults and the children share the fact that they both
play games, but a difference also exists between them. The children enact their entertainment,
knowing that the games could get violent, but in the end, when the games are over, all the players are
able to return home. On the other hand, the adults play their adult games, hurting anyone who does
not play by the given rules, and not everyone is fortunate enough to return home. The children
pretend to be violent at times but the adults actually are violent. As the children move through the
novel, they use these games to develop from their innocence to a level of experience by actualizing
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.


As most children naturally do, Jem, Scout, and their newly-found friend Dill find amusements to
make the days pass with excitement. When they first meet Dill, they are beginning the "day's play in
the backyard"(11). The implication is that it becomes routine for them to play and that each day
brings on a different experience. When Dill joins them in their daily adventures, they begin to create
more elaborate activities. Many days they spend improving the treehouse, "fussing"(12), and acting
out parts of plays by Oliver Optic, Victor Appleton, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Their games of
Tom Swift, The Rover Boys, and The Gray Ghost are the source of their pleasures for hours and
days upon end. Once these games seem rote and overplayed, they decide to make Boo Radley
come out. The mystery of Boo Radley is appealing and leaves more room for their imaginations to
grow. Thus, the "Boo Radley" plays begin. These plays are innocent in their motives and since they
are not real, the consequences are virtually nonexistent. Although these plays are simply for
amusement, in the end, they teach Jem, Scout, and Dill lessons about respect, courage, and
understanding. The "Boo" games begin with a simple dare that Jem has to carry out in order to gain
respect from his sister and friend. By slapping the Radley's house, he is almost a hero for a brief
moment- a hero that Scout and Dill admire because of his tremendous courage. Scout also has her
turn to prove herself to the boys, but the opportunity comes to her as a surprise. As she rolls
uncontrollably in a tire into the Radley's front yard, her fear heightens with every turn and the
smartest thing for her to do is to run away as fast and as far away as possible. Scout and Jem both
learn about courage in the first Boo games they invent by testing their levels of fear.

The next stage in their Boo pursuits leads out of discussions with the wise, lady neighbors about
"B-Mr. Arthur's" past (50). The children have their prior assumptions about Boo from the wild
stories, rumors, and vague answers they receive from Miss Stephanie Crawford , Atticus, and Miss.
Maudie. The stories only further their imaginations to run wild because Boo is still a mystery. The
children travel through phases in the Boo games, the first of which involves violence. They act out
different versions of Boo stabbing his father in the leg with scissors and other horrible, violent acts on
Boo's part. As the games become routine, they take a different perspective and see Boo as a
positive figure. Boo, to them, is a potential friend-if only they could let him know their harmless
intentions. So they embark on yet another quest to try to reach Boo. The experience of placing a
note on the windowsill of the Radley Place turns sour when Atticus walks into the scene and
reprimands them for bothering someone who obviously wants to be left alone. Despite Atticus'
warnings, the children's thirst for knowledge of Boo's life drives them to their most dangerous
adventure thus far. The new idea of looking into the window of the house is a turning point in the
novel because it pushes the children closer to the reality of the adult world. Mr. Nathan Radley
catches them in a roundabout way, and the three mischievous kids realize how far they have gone
away from the "game." Before that night, Boo is simply a game. The incident included the reality of a
shotgun and of Jem's pants stuck at the trespassing scene. The game has turned into a dangerous,
scary expedition that leaves all three of them shaken and stunned. Jem shows his courage by going
back for his pants in the middle of the night and Scout has to display faith and courage to be able to
stay home, not knowing if her brother would return alive or dead. Jem and Scout learn about
courage and faith but, more importantly, they are beginning to see the reality of their games.


That scary night is a seemingly large obstacle in their Boo pursuits until Miss Maudie's house goes up
in flames. The white-covered, black snowman they build before the fire turns into a messy pile on the
ground, showing that mixed black and white cannot last. Also, the snowman is another game Jem
and Scout create that pokes fun at Mr. Avery's size. This mockery by means of the "morphodite"
snowman turns around on the children as they watch the burning house and Mr. Avery stuck in the
window. Jem and Scout have another brush with reality in this terrible mishap when they see that
their snowman ridicules Mr. Avery for the very same reason he is stuck in the burning house. Boo
also makes another appearance to Scout and Jem unknowingly, until they return home with an
unidentified blanket around Scout's shoulders. Boo's unspoken, unseen presence at the fire put him
in a new light in Jem's and Scout's eyes. Yet again, they see reality and their games slowly fading and
losing their meaning. The burning house and Boo's reappearance show Jem and Scout more pieces
of reality and push them closer and closer to the adult world.

Jem and Scout continue to ascertain lessons of respect and understanding through relatives, Atticus,
and Mrs. Dubose. As the trial creeps closer, Scout and Jem each have to test their self-control in
accepting or ignoring the multitudes of "nigger-lover" comments coming their way, by adults as well
as children. Scout loses all control when she beats up her cousin Francis, but she does not
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