The Themes Of Childhoods In 'jane Eyre' And 'to Kill A Mockingbird'

1437 words - 6 pages

'To Kill A Mocking Bird' by Harper Lee and 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë are two very different books written in different periods of history. There are, however, similarities in the themes and background. For example, both books were written during times of great social upheaval and strife. In 'To Kill A Mocking Bird', the world was still very racist and it was not until the book was actually written some twenty years later the men like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X started to bring about real reforms. 'Jane Eyre' was slightly different as this was set during a time when the masses of overworked and underpaid Victorians were being given greater freedoms and more time in which to have ...view middle of the document...

Description of characters is done in two highly differing ways in 'To Kill A Mocking Bird', the first being the adult and formal manner: "Jem and I found our Father satisfactory: he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment." Then there is the second manner: "She was all angles and bones." This shows that, whilst being childish, childish language can be very effective and descriptive. Children do not have the filters that adults do, and this allows them true freedom of speech. Another way that childhood is introduced lies in the way that the text is structured. There are long passages of description, interspersed with equally long passages of direct speech.
"I'm Charles Baker Harris, I can read." This shows some of the things children are prepared to say to enhance their 'social standing' (something that is very important in Maycomb). They have no inhibitions and are prepared to say things that normally only junior executives would dream of saying to their bosses. They can also make fun of things that others would not dream of. For example: ". . . Charles Baker Harris . . . Lord, what a name . . . Your name's longer than you are. Bet it's a foot taller." This is said where an adult would say "What a nice name!". Children are also full of superstition. This is shown in 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' by several passages: "Radley pecans would kill you." "When people's azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them." "Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom." Absolutely none of this would be true, but it all goes with the Bogeyman, children need something to fear, but it will never be something they know. This particular bit of subliminal (almost) meaning serves as an explanation for Scout's saving of her Father later in the text.
Childhood is introduced by reported speech. Hearsay and rumour are a way for news and knowledge to spread. Many things are blown out of proportion or merely lied about. All the information about the Bogeyman of Maycomb (Boo) is received via these mediums. "Miss Stephanie said . . ." "Atticus just said . . ." "Miss Maudie said . . ." and all of this is followed by some form of gossip. 'Children can be cruel' but they must be taught to gossip and insult . . .
Children's attitude's to school are somewhat different to those of adults. Adults, who have experienced the joys of education, disagree with those who are experiencing the joys of education. This is because it has to happen, it just doesn't feel that way at the time. Once the course has been run, however, it becomes an entirely different story . . . "Before the first morning was over, Miss Caroline Fisher, hauled me up to the front of the class and patted the palm of my hand with a ruler, then made me stand in the corner of the room until noon." On her first day at school, Scout is reprimanded for being literate. "I never deliberately learned to read." The childish response that will be...

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