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How language contributes to theme

Uploaded by qtpetutti on Sep 18, 2002

Harper Lee uses a variety of language styles to establish the distinct characteristics of the characters she creates. The many forms of diction and dialect used throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird help accentuate the realism of the characters to the reader.

The story takes place in a small town in Maycomb county, Alabama, so it’s not surprising that siblings, Scout and Jem, and their friend Dill all talk with a southern accent. In a conversation between the three of them in Chapter 1, the southern dialect is quite evident. Jem, who is meeting Dill for the first time says, “Shoot, no wonder, then. Scout yonder’s been readin’ ever since she was born, and she ain’t even started to school yet. You look right puny for goin’ on seven.” The use of the words ain’t, and yonder give the reader a more realistic feeling of being in the south. If the characters spoke with proper English, the reader would have a hard time believing that these children live in a small southern town. Without even being told that the story takes place in the south, the reader can figure it out just by the dialect alone.

In the same conversation, Jem makes fun of Dill’s name. Dill then replies, “ ‘s not any funnier’n yours.” When the text is read, the improper contractions help the reader hear the character’s voice. The written-out southern dialect helps the reader to not only read the dialogue, but also speak it as if it were the character. In doing so, the character comes alive through the words, and the reader can sense that.

The author also uses diction throughout the story. The different vocabularies each of the characters have can tell the reader many things about that person. For instance, in chapter 3, Burris Ewell yells to the teacher, “Ain’t no snot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher ever born c’n make me do nothin’! You ain’t makin’ me go nowhere missus. You just remember that, you ain’t makin’ me go nowhere!” From this quote alone, the reader might get the impression that Burris is uneducated. The use of the words slut and snot-nosed inform the reader that the character obviously doesn’t have a wonderful vocabulary. If it had been written, “no conceited and unchaste school teacher is forcing me to proceed anywhere,” the reader would’ve gotten a completely different impression of the character. Burris, in fact,...

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Uploaded by:   qtpetutti

Date:   09/18/2002

Category:   To Kill A Mockingbird

Length:   3 pages (620 words)

Views:   2036

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