Mockingbird Graphic.
Lesson

Scout as Narrator: The Impact of Point of View

Students consider how Harper Lee’s decision to tell To Kill a Mockingbird through the eyes of young Scout impacts readers' understanding of the novel.

Published:

At a Glance

Lesson

Language

English — US

Subject

  • English & Language Arts

Grade

9–10
  • Racism

Overview

About This Lesson

As Scout and Jem confront the issues of difference and belonging embedded in their community, Harper Lee’s choice to tell the story through the eyes of Scout becomes more crucial to the story.  Scout’s wide-eyed naiveté heightens the impact of both the social expectations she resists and the injustices she sees unfold.  

Indeed, one of the primary narrative arcs of the novel is Scout’s “coming of age” through these experiences.  At the same time, Scout’s lack of life experience and knowledge about the world she inhabits leaves readers with gaps to fill in their own understanding of several important events and characters in the book. 

Scout’s reliability as the narrator is important to understand because of what it shows about both the value and limitations of attempting to “walk in someone else’s skin.”  As students simultaneously grapple with Scout’s limited perspective and observe it slowly expand as the story unfolds, they might reflect on the ways in which their own perspectives are limited, as are everyone’s. By wrestling with these challenges, students can begin to strengthen their understanding and practice of empathy.

This lesson includes:

  • 3 activities 
  • 1 video

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before you teach this lesson, please review the following guidance to tailor this lesson to your students’ contexts and needs.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most commonly taught books in American schools. This complex novel can be the entry point for meaningful learning, but it demands a careful and intentional approach in the classroom. Learn more about the key principles behind our approach.

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Lesson Plans

Activities

Use the following questions to explore the mob scene at the end of Chapter 15 in To Kill a Mockingbird. What does this incident suggest about mob mentality and how Harper Lee thinks it might be defeated?  How does Scout’s limited understanding of the events in this chapter affect the reader?  What parts of the story must the reader piece together on their own?  What does this process reveal about Scout’s reliability as a narrator?

How do Paula Giddings’s insights deepen our understanding of the tension in the jailhouse scene?  What myths and fears were used to justify the lynching of black men?  What does Giddings define as the primary function that lynching played?  How does having deeper knowledge of this history reaffirm or change our analysis of the choices that Atticus, Scout, Jem, and Walter Cunningham make? How does this video help us understand Scout's limitations as a narrator?

Another way to help students understand Scout’s limitations as the narrator is to ask them to consider how a different character might have described the jailhouse scene.  Ask them to rewrite the scene from the perspective of another character who was there: Tom Robinson, Walter Cunningham, Atticus, or Jem.  

Regardless of the character that students choose or are assigned, they should include responses to the following questions in their work:

  1. How does the character understand what the men intended to do when they arrived at the courthouse?
  2. How did the character feel when Scout ran to Atticus?  How did he respond?
  3. How would the character explain why the men decided to leave?  To whom does the character give credit for convincing them to back down?

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