To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a story about growing up and learning about the real world. Throughout the book, many of the characters, particularly the protagonists, experience the hard lesson of growing up. Some of the characters offer guidance to Jem and Scout, the inquisitive and wild children that the book is centered on, about how things work in the world. A neighbor of Scout and Jem’s, Miss Maudie, was always there for Scout when she was abandoned by Jem and Dill, and she offered many words of wisdom to Scout. Miss Maudie was influential in the story because of her personality and traits, as well as her wise words.
Although readers often attribute all the credit to the children’s father Atticus, Miss Maudie holds a significant role in Scout’s life. In fact, one could argue that she plays one of the most important parts of Scout’s journey into womanhood. Miss Maudie had said, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” This line is the turning point of the novel, as the readers can see what the title means, therefore able to see what the theme is: the loss of innocence, or growing up. Miss Maudie’s line is the root of the title, which means that she must be an important character. Readers would probably call Miss Maudie a minor character, and static, yet she still is a vital part of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Miss Maudie is a very interesting character. She always cared for the two Finch children and always understood them. Scout describes a unique side of her neighbor, saying that 'her speech was crisp for a Maycomb County inhabitant. She called us by all our names, and when she grinned she revealed two-minute gold prongs clipped to her eye teeth. When I admired them and hoped I would have some eventually, she said, ‘Look here.’ With a click of her tongue, she thrust out her bridgework, a gesture of cordiality that cemented our friendship.' In this excerpt, Miss Maudie is acting the way a young child would appreciate, which shows that Miss Maudie is an understanding person. This also shows how she is a little different from the rest of the town, especially her “crisp” speech, which implies that she is intelligent.
Miss Maudie is not a typical woman in the 1930s; Miss Maudie hates her house and spends all of her time outside in her garden, wearing men’s overalls. She is a compassionate person and uses her acidic tongue to defend innocent and helpless people (which could also be called mockingbirds). For example, Miss Maudie defends Boo Radley by saying, “Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of the night and found him looking in the window at her. I said what did you do, Stephanie, move over in the bed and make room for him? That shut her up a while.” She has an appreciation for nature and always makes cakes for the three children. This shows a gentle and generous personality. The fact alone is that Scout likes and trusts Miss Maudie, and since Scout is a good judge of character, the readers know that she is a good person. In fact, Miss Maudie might be considered a mother figure for Scout. Not quite a mother, as Calpurnia was more of a discipliner and caretaker, but she still was able to pass on wisdom to the children who trusted her.
All of her traits - compassion, severity, gentleness, acidity, and understanding - were important to developing her character. Her compassion and understanding were vital to creating a person who is able to teach important lessons, while her acidity and severity made her more interesting and believable.
As one might expect of a lady like Miss Maudie, Miss Maudie was involved with the rest of the town in a way people probably wouldn’t approve of or think socially acceptable for the time and setting. For example, Miss Maudie refused to take part in Tom Robinson’s trial. She considered it akin to watching an animal being put to death by cruel hands. Miss Maudie was very concerned with the fact that everyone was so eager to see the unfairly accused man put on display for everyone to see. Whenever she sees something is wrong, she attempts to make it right, even if no one agrees with her.
As previously stated, Miss Maudie had developed a strong relationship with Scout and Jem, but most especially Scout. Scout found a friendship with Miss Maudie when she needed someone, and Miss Maudie always supplied the three with cakes. Miss Maudie also truly understood Atticus, and she even taught Scout many things about Atticus that she did not know. She says that “‘Sometimes a Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of another man.’' Miss Maudie was teaching Scout how good of a person Atticus was. She also told Scout why Atticus had not told his children about being an extremely accurate shot.
Miss Maudie has many strengths, but like all good people, she also has at least one weakness: Miss Maudie is not a very sensitive person. Although that quality is great for defending people and keeping an annoying person at bay, it might also hurt other people.
Just like any character in a book, Miss Maudie experiences conflicts. One of the most memorable events in the early chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird is when her house burns down. However, Miss Maudie does not care much. In fact, she even said that she hated 'that old cow barn,' and had thought about burning it down herself, 'except they'd lock me up.' This scene has a couple of purposes in the novel. For one, it serves as a way to let the readers see how close-knit the town of Maycomb is. This can help denigrate the town even further when it is polarized later during the trial, basically blacks and whites, not in-between. Another purpose is to introduce Boo’s kindness and possibly reveal the fact that he is a mockingbird in the novel. The last purpose of the fire was to create a symbol. Miss Maudie was planning on rebuilding a much smaller house so she could grow many more flowers and plants. The flowers might symbolize innocence and youth, which needed to be protected from the ideas of racism and evil in the real world. When they were all wiped out by the fire, Miss Maudie was determined to raise many more. The fact that the fire was put out may also be symbolic, as the difficult facts of life are easier to face as more generations pass. Jem and Scout and Dill all can see what a terrible thing racism is, and perhaps the next generation will be even more unwilling to carry it on.
Miss Maudie was very different from the rest of the town. Although she was a Baptist, she did not consider herself a “foot-washing Baptist.” Nathan Radley had told her that she and her flowers were going to hell, which she told Scout. She used the chance to teach Scout a lesson: “There is just some kind of men who-who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”
To sum up, growing up is the main purpose of To Kill A Mockingbird, and all the characters who teach important lessons about that major theme are very important. Characters like Miss Maudie are the best people to teach lessons because she has the best traits. Someone like Miss Maudie would make the best teacher; her traits are the traits of all good teachers.
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