A Contrarian Take on Mockingbird

Thomas Mallon on Harper Lee: “More troublesome than the dialogue, Lee’s narrative voice is a wildly unstable compound, a forced mixture—sometimes in the same sentence—of Scout’s very young perspective and a fully adult one. Phrases like ‘throughout my early life’ and ‘when we were small’ serve only to jar us out of a past that we’ve already been seeing, quite clearly, through the eyes of the little girl. Information that has been established gets repeated, and the book’s sentences are occasionally so clumsy that a reader can’t visualize the action before being asked to picture its opposite: ‘A flash of plain fear was going out of [Atticus’s] eyes, but returned when Dill and Jem wriggled into the light.'”

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One Comment

  1. Hmmm. It’s been too long for me to remember accurately, but I can’t recall the presence of a “fully adult” Scout in TKAM. The examples ‘throughout my early life’ and ‘when we were small’ strike me as the kind of unintentionally humorous way kids talk about their lives — plus, acting like a grown-up is a very Scout thing to do.

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