Loss of Innocence in "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Updated on September 19, 2019
JenniferWilber profile image

Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.

First-edition cover of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by the American author Harper Lee.
First-edition cover of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by the American author Harper Lee. | Source

Scout’s Experiences of Loss of Innocence

Throughout Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout learns many lessons from the adults in her life that cause her to experience losses of innocence to varying degrees. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the person to whom she looks up to the most, so she learns many life lessons from him. Early in the novel, she also learns quite a bit about how the adult world works from her teacher, Miss Caroline. Boo Radley also plays a central role in teaching Scout valuable lessons in the novel.

Miss Caroline

When Scout first starts school, she is eager to learn. When her teacher, Miss Caroline, calls on her to read the alphabet written on the board, Miss Caroline becomes upset to learn the Scout already knows how to read. She tells Scout not to let her father teach her to read anymore because it’s “best to begin reading with a fresh mind (23).” Miss Caroline is proud of her new teaching methods and doesn’t want them challenged. She likely feels threatened by Scout’s abilities. This confuses Scout because she can’t understand how excelling at reading could possibly be wrong. This experience is one of her first encounters with an adult who thinks that their ways are the only correct ways and this represents an early loss of innocence in Scout’s life.

Loss of Innocence

Atticus Finch

Scout learns many valuable lessons from her father throughout the novel. Atticus tries to teach his children about fairness in a world that rarely seems fair. Though the rest of the community has racist attitudes toward African Americans, Atticus teaches Scout and Jem to treat all people with respect. As a result, Scout has a great relationship with their African American housekeeper, Calpurnia, and sees her as a mother-figure. Even when the rest of the town wanted the black man Tom Robinson killed for the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, a white woman, Atticus took his case and did his best to defend him. Ultimately, the jury found him guilty, despite Atticus’s seemingly bulletproof defense. This resulted in a major loss of innocence for Scout when she saw firsthand that life isn’t fair and sometimes innocent people can lose. This also reinforced how awful and unfair the racist beliefs of the community really were.

Atticus and Tom Robinson in court - Promotional still from the film To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) with Gregory Peck and Brock Peters
Atticus and Tom Robinson in court - Promotional still from the film To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) with Gregory Peck and Brock Peters | Source

Boo Radley

Discovering the true nature of Arthur “Boo” Radley also represents a loss of innocence for Scout. Throughout the novel, Scout and Jem thought of Boo Radley as a scary, almost mythical, figure. Because they had never seen him, they let their imaginations run wild with every rumor they heard and thought he was a horrible and dangerous person. When they finally do get to know him, it is when he saves their lives. Scout and Jem find out that it was he who had been leaving them gifts inside the tree the whole time. The person they thought to be evil and dangerous turned out to be someone they could trust completely. This realization that people aren’t always what they first appear to be was a valuable lesson and represented a loss of innocence, but a positive one.

Gregory Peck (left) & James Anderson in (1962) To Kill a Mockingbird - trailer
Gregory Peck (left) & James Anderson in (1962) To Kill a Mockingbird - trailer | Source

Positive and Negative Losses of Innocence

Throughout the novel, Scout learns many life lessons from the adults around her as she matures. Through several losses of innocence, she gains new perspectives on how the world works. Some of her experiences of loss of innocence were negative, such as when she learns that innocent people can still lose everything after Tom Robinson’s trial, but other losses of innocence had a positive impact on her world view, such as when she got to know Boo Radley for who he really was. Through these experiences, Scout matured into a young woman with a good heart and sense of fairness with the help of her father and the other adults in her life.

To Kill A Mockingbird - Themes


Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Warner, 1982. Print.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Jennifer Wilber


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • JenniferWilber profile imageAUTHOR

        Jennifer Wilber 

        11 months ago from Cleveland, Ohio

        I'm not sure what you mean.

      • profile image


        11 months ago

        Hello. Can you please find connections to real life?

      • mactavers profile image


        2 years ago

        Good observations on this great American novel.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)