In the three years covered by To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout and Jem grow up. At the start of the book they are innocents, with an uncomplicated sense of what's good (Atticus, the people of Maycomb) and what's evil (Boo Radley). By the end of the book, the children have lost their innocence and gained a more complex understanding of the world, in which bad and good are present and visible in almost everyone. As the children grow into the adult world, though, they don't just accept what they see. They question what doesn't make sense to them—prejudice, hatred, and violence. So while To Kill a Mockingbird shows three children as they lose their innocence, it also uses their innocence to look freshly at the world of Maycomb and criticize its flaws.
Like every kid growing up, Scout attends school for the first time. But rather than contribute to her education, Scout's school is depicted as rigid to the point of idiocy, with teachers who criticize students who got on early start on reading and hate the Nazis but can't see the racism present in their own town. To Kill a Mockingbird does not so much explore standardized school education as condemn it, showing how it emphasizes rote facts and policies designed to create conformist children rather than promote creative critical thinking, sympathy, and mutual understanding across racial and socioeconomic boundaries.
Growing Up ThemeTracker
Growing Up Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird
"Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong...."
Beneath its sweat-streaked dirt Dill's face went white. I felt sick.
Jem was standing in a corner of the room, looking like the traitor he was. "Dill, I had to tell him," he said. "You can't run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin'."
We left him without a word.
"Uncle Jack Finch says we really don't know. He says as far as he can trace back the Finches we ain't, but for all he knows we mighta come straight out of Ethiopia durin' the Old Testament."
"Well if we came out durin' the Old Testament it's too long ago to matter."
"That's what I thought," said Jem, "but around here once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black."
"Why couldn't I mash him?" I asked.
"Because they don't bother you," Jem answered in the darkness. He had turned out his reading light.