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To Kill A Mockingbird: Childhood Experience

Have you ever thought of an answer to reply to your children, when they

ask you, ?What was the world like when you were a child??, ?What things that

happened that impressed you most when you were a child?? or ?How interesting is

your childhood experience??. Everybody must have had their childhood. Some of

the experiences may cause them to smile, or even laugh, while some of them may

bring back bitter memories. It is always hard to express the childhood

incidents or experience in a clear and interesting way, since they were past

memories that happened long time ago. Moreover, when a person has grown up,

they will never have the same feeling which they might have in their childhood.

However, the authors Harper Lee and Mark Twain can express their own childhood

inside the stories they created, in a lively and realistic way. The two novels

To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer have a very similar

characteristic. It is the way they describe a person’s childhood experience,

and their feelings and new knowledge that come out from those experiences. This

characteristic, however, has given me a big revelation after reading the two

novels. The novels show that the childhood experience of a person has a great

positive influence on his personality, behaviour, and ways on dealing with

others. This idea has been shown by the authors in both novels.

From the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, one could discover that innocent

behaviour and misunderstanding can lead a child to view a person or thing

incorrectly and incompletely. This behaviour can also lead a child to a wrong

perspective. In the first part of To Kill a Mockingbird, the main characters

Scout, Jem, and Dill thought that the Radley family and their member, Boo Radley,

as strange and unnatural human beings. They described Radley’s house as ?That

is a sad house….? (Harper Lee, 48). This is a ?fact? they heard from their

neighbours. Until one day, their neighbour Miss Maudie’s house was found on

fire. While Scout was standing outside in the cold watching the fire, someone

from behind her and put a blanket around her shoulders. Later, Scout and Jem

realized that there was only one person in town who had not fought to put out

the fire — Boo Radley. Scout asked, ?Thank who??(Harper Lee, 76). Jem replied,

?Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn’t know it when he put

the blanket around you.?(Harper Lee, 76) It was then that Scout and Jem started

to realize that Boo Radley was basically a kind and normal person, and that he

was not a strange person as they thought at the beginning of the story. This

incident proves that misunderstanding can bring a child into wrong perspectives,

and that experience through time helps to solve the problem. There is also

another proof from the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In the story, the

main character, Tom Sawyer, thought that school was a restriction to him and

therefore he decided to skip school and found his ?world of freedom? from the

forest and rivers. His aunt, Polly said, ?Didn’t you want to go in a-swimming,

Tom?? (Mark Twain, 13) Afterwards, Aunt Polly tried to punish him for skipping

school by ordering him to wash a long, huge fence. However, this did not have

any effect on Tom. He continued to do what he thought was ?right? — skips

classes. He did not seem to care why his aunt Polly punished him. This is,

once again, another example to show how innocent behaviour can lead a child to

have wrong perspective and behaviour.

Although it has been said that innocent behaviour usually leads a child

into the wrong path, there are still some exceptions. Having said that, it

should be remembered that the nature of a child really helps to develop his or

her own positive personality and behaviour, together with their childhood

experience. For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, the character Scout, was a

smart and clever girl. However, she did not get any close friends other than

her new friend Dill and her brother Jem, as seen from the story. From the scene

where Scout argued and embarrassed Mr. Cunningham, her friend Walter

Cunningham’s father, dissuading him from trying to kill Tom Robinson, one can

discover her talent in speaking and arguing with people. She said, ?Hey, Mr.

Cunningham, how’s your entailment gettin’ along?? (Harper Lee, 155), reminding

Mr. Cunningham that Scout’s father, Atticus, had once helped him with legal

problems. Scout continued to talk about young Walter, and how she once lent him

money to buy lunch when the boy had nothing to eat. ?I go to school with Walter,

he’s your boy, ain’t he?? (Harper Lee, 156) This kind of friendly talk made Mr.

Cunningham ashamed and finally left the jail instead of killing Tom Robinson.

This nature helped her to grow up and become more mature through the experiences

she encountered throughout the whole plot. Another example can be found from

the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In the story, Tom Sawyer was a typical

boy in his time. He was an imaginative, active, and smart boy. From the

incident where he tried to use his clever technique to make other boys complete

the punishment given out by Aunt Polly as mentioned in the previous paragraph,

one can discover how smart and clever he was. Tom said, ?Oh you think you are

mighty smart, don’t you? I could lick you with one hand tied behind me, if I

wanted to.? (Mark Twain, 15) showing his confidence in his own talent and

knowledge. From the fact that he hated and skipped school all the time, he had

experienced many unpredictable happenings that helped him to understand, to

learn more, and to develop his own perspective.

After discussing how the innocent behaviour of a child and his own

nature may have positive influence on him, it’s now time to talk about the ?

results? that came out from their childhood experience. From the two novels

discussed in the previous paragraphs, the results can be seen clearly from

either the characters in the story or the children nowadays. After they went

through a journey of maturity, they finally became young ?adults? who were

responsible, caring, and intelligent. Examples can be drawn from the novel To

Kill a Mockingbird. After the two major incidents happened in the story, namely,

the Boo Radley incident and Tom Robinson’s Trial, the character Scout started to

realize that how important it was to understand a person and to have tolerance

among people. Scout felt sympathy and grief after knowing the death of Tom

Robinson, because he had committed no crime. She realized why her father

Atticus told her not to kill a mockingbird; it’s because it was a harmless bird

and innocent of any wrong. Miss Maudie explained to the children, ?Mockingbirds

don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out of us.? (Harper Lee, 102) and that

it’d be a ?sin? to kill a Mockingbird. Scout knew that a bad person like Bob

Ewell in the story, could attack people physically, but he had no real power to

control people’s minds. Another example can be found on The Adventures of Tom

Sawyer. Tom Sawyer was scared after the scene of murder by Injun Joe in the

cemetery. He then knew that Injun Joe was a very very bad person. He therefore

stood up in the witness box to point out Injun Joe’s crime. Also, from the last

part of the story, Tom’s care for his girlfriend, Becky, is evident. Tom took

care of Becky when they were both in the cave. Becky felt she would die soon

and made Tom promise that he would return to her and hold her hand when he could

find a way out. She said, ?Can you find the way, Tom? It’s all a mixed-up

crookedness to me.? (Mark Twain, 191). Tom kissed her and tried to act brave as

he left her to try to find a way out of the cave. He grew even mature after all

these bitter and unpleasant experiences.

Sometimes it is very hard to find out why the childhood experience of a

person has a formative, or even a great positive influence, on either their

personality, behaviour, and ways on dealing with others. The two novels

discussed above did give a very precise and clear answer to this question.

However, to understand why this kind of experience may cause positive influence

on a child, one must not only look from their innocent behaviour and their

nature; other factors also count. It may be the era in which the child was born,

or his family background, or may be the inherent personality of the child.

Nobody except a psychologist may have a perfect solution to this question. But

one hard core can be declared, the above question is one of the ideas which flow

out from the two novels To Kill a Mockingbird from Harper Lee, and The

Adventures of Tom Sawyer from Mark Twain. The two authors have done an

excellent job in proving the idea discussed above — childhood experience of a

person has a positive influence on their perspectives and values.


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