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Girl Power: Sourcing the Feminine Strength in To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes and Antigone
To Kill a Mockingbird Scout is more spice than sugar when it comes to being a girl. In fact, it is especially sugar-free. No frilly pink dresses, pretty dolls or sweet tea parties. She’s more likely to punch you in the face than give you a sweet smile, especially if you’re the class freak. And that’s why most readers love her: she’s a bold, feisty whore with a good heart – just don’t call her a girl. For Scout, being a girl is a lot in life that she would rather not have. After all, what’s the use of clothes if she wants to climb and play and fight? Girls just want to have fun! Dresses are liabilities; he prefers pants. At least no one can accuse her of impracticality.
Many literary critics are quick to point out the similarities between Scout’s life and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird. Regardless of whether or not Lee was a rowdy girl like good old Scout, Lee could definitely get into the mind of a little motherless girl who was constantly running around with boys. In fact, a close analysis of some selected To Kill a Mockingbird quotes will show that Scout struggles with being a girl. For her, it’s a “pink cotton prison”. Yet, as the novel progresses, Scout begins to see the value and skill of being a woman, despite what her father Atticus calls a Southern environment that follows the “polite fiction” that female subordination and inferiority are commonplace. Scout symbolically overcomes this notion in the coming-of-age story at the end of the novel when she follows Aunt Alexandra, who adopts a polite decorum despite the death of Tom, the black Atticus represented in the controversial rape trial. He says, “After all, if aunt could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.” Scout sees that there is strength and value in being a woman as she acts bravely in the face of challenging situations. And she doesn’t have to give anyone a bloody nose to prove it.
However, the idea of female strength and perseverance in troubled times is actually a theme that has been woven into literature for over a thousand years – from Sophocles’ Antigone to Nathaniel Hawthornes’ Scarlet Letter. The daughter of Sigmund-Freud’s notorious lover and sweetheart Oedipus, Antigone is actually a prominent literary exemplar of female strength in the face of adversity. Scout could learn a lot from her. Despite the tyrannical king Creon’s decree that her brother Polyneices be left out like a dried tomato instead of a proper burial, Antigone does the moral, humane thing and buries him. The loathsome Antigone doesn’t even flinch when Creon punishes and imprisons her for her alleged crime, clinging to her moral weapons, or swords, if you want to be historically accurate. She has nerves of steel. She accepts her punishment and then kills herself, presumably dying on her own terms to defy her impending death sentence ordered by Creon.
It takes serious courage to stick to your moral principles when it’s popular, the much easier option, to abandon them—something Scout also learns in the novel’s tense, racially charged rape trial, which Atticus refuses to quit because he believes he’s representing Tom. the right thing. Scout learns that it’s not just men who have this moral capacity to persevere – women have it too. Girl power for the win.
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