"To kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
Throughout her novel, Harper Lee uses multiple literary tools to bring her story to life. Devices such as similes, metaphors, and colloquialism enhance the book. The reader is able to experience everything the characters can with the way Harper Lee intertwines her words.
Harper Lee’s powerful way with words gives every setting she describes a particular mood. Her description of the Radley house places an ominous mood any time the house or the family is referenced. The “rain rotted shingles [that] dropped over the eaves of the veranda; oak trees that kept the sun away.
” (Lee 9) is analogous to the comparison of a prison. The gloomy and threatening aura of a prison is the same aura Lee sets for the Radley house. Any mention of the Radley House and its occupants is followed with a specific type of darkness that is not present in other aspects of the story. When the reader is introduced to Mr. Radley for the first time, he does not speak.
…look at the ground and say “Good morning, sir”, and he would cough in reply. (Lee 13). As if the children were inmates and he is the prison guard forbidden to communication. Whereas other characters the reader is introduced speak. For example, when Dill is first brought into plau, he has a friendly and extroverted personality. “Hey… I’m Charles Baker Harris… I can read” (Lee 7). From the beginning, Harper Lee emphasized the Radley House as a foreshadowing that it would have a bigger significance as the story progressed.
Lee’s purposely incorporates the type of English she does in order to establish the time period and the location of the story. The use of colloquialism strengthens the scenery. A majority of the slang used takes place at the courthouse, especially when Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson are on the stand. “A chiffarobe, a old dresser full of drawers on one side” (Lee 209). By using old terms and incorrect grammar such as “I knowned who he was” (Lee 209), Lee instills the old, small town feel in the reader’s mind. Even Dill’s dialect transforms. When the reader first became acquainted with Dill, his speech pattern is barely riddled with slang and combined words. …then Scout’n’me’ll jump on him and hold him down till we can tell him we ain’t gonna hurt him (Lee 16). But, towards the end of the book, his speech is filled with slurred words, unique similes, and the town’s lingo. “I told her till I was blue n the face where I was going she’s just seein too many snakes in the closet.” (Lee 244). The transformation of his dialect shows how influential the meaningless town of Maycomb was for Dill.
The most compelling literary device Harper Lee utilized is syntax. Her sentence structures affects her descriptions. It adds more emphasis to areas where it’s needed, and complements the areas where adjectives could not be placed. The characterization of Burris Ewell is an example of Lee’s use of syntax. The boy stood up. He was the filthiest human I had ever seen. His neck was grey, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his f (Lee 29). The shortness of the first sentence describing his movements make it seem robotic-like. Robots communicate in short sentences. The boy stood up. His movements seem computerized. The second sentence that talks about how Burris appears to scout is meant is to medium length. The longest word in the second sentence is filthiest, which draws attention to it. Lee could have said “He was dirty”. But, filthiest has a stronger and more negative connotation than dirty. The last sentence in the quote, which describes his impurities in depth is composed of commas instead of periods. By using commas, Lee implies that Burris Ewell’s list on uncleanliness is never-ending. Another example is Tom Robinson’s escape attempt from jail. He was running. It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started climbing. (Lee 268). This sentence did not use a single comma, due to the fact that it ends in Tom Robinson’s death. His life was not continuous, it ended, just like the period at the end of each sentence signified. Harper Lee’s strongest literally tool was syntax.
Harper Lee’s literary device techniques makes her story interesting in more ways than one. Syntax is her most compelling device out of all used in the story. Syntax may go unnoticed in the initial reading, but a deeper analyzation of the story brings out deeper meanings. Periods, commas, slang, misspelled words, and improper grammar all shape “To Kill A Mockingbird” into the winner of the Pulitzer Prize story.
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