Child narration gives a naive view of events, within a text which is highlighted by the reader’s better understanding of events than that of the narrator. This paper will deal with To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre, giving insight into how the texts are affected by a child narration. To Kill a Mocking Bird is narrated by a young child named Scout. Scout is an excellent example of how child narration can emphasise a character’s significant growth as a person throughout a text. However, it must be noted that there are two children in this text; both maintain a significantly different outlook on the world.
We can assume that this was the author’s intention and that Jem, who is Scout’s older brother, is being used to emphasise Scout’s childish presence in the text. Jane Eyre is significantly different to that of To Kill a Mockingbird as the text appears to be narrated from the perspective of an adult looking back on her experience as a child. However, we must also notice that there is a significant change in narration after chapter ten, almost to give the impression that the child narrator of the previous ten chapters was being replaced by the presence of an adult narrator.
Firstly we can look at a specific event in To Kill a Mockingbird and view the affect that Scout, a child narrator, has on the situation. In chapter fifteen, Atticus, Scout’s father, is sitting outside the jailhouse in which Tom Robinson resides, who has been accused of rape and awaits his trial. Atticus is unaware that he is being watched by his children. A mob appears from “four dusty cars” p166 and Scout runs across to Atticus unaware of the danger she has placed herself in. Scout senses her father’s fears but is childishly unaware of the situation.
However, in contrast, we notice Jem who is fully aware of what was going on and refuses to leave against his father’s orders. Scout begins to innocently talk to a familiar face in the crowd who she identifies as Mr Cunningham; however she is unaware that he has come with a mob to attack Tom Robinson. Scout begins to wonder why Mr Cunningham was ignoring her but eventually receives a response due to her childish comments about his son Walter but more importantly his “entailments” p169.
The culmination of people around her began staring and she curiously mentions that she is unaware of what “idiocy” p170 she had committed. The mob is then disbanded by Mr Cunningham after realising they could not commit an act on Tom Robinson in the presence of Scout and the other children. Scout also noticed the “flash of plain fear” p167 when she approached Atticus but could not process this information to interpret the situation, from this we must notice the innocence of Scout’s views but also, how child narration gives the impression of the narrator being oblivious to the actions and perception of the adult world.
This chapter serves two purposes, the first showing us how realistic the effect of child narration can be, emphasised by the reader knowing more than the narrator but also how Jem perceives events differently than Scout despite a very minor age difference which will be analysed later in this paper. In this instance, we can look at Jane Eyre and analyse how the narration affects the text. Chapter nine and ten are important as they represent a change in narrator. From chapters one to nine, we can assume that there is a child narrator, however it must be stated that at times the narrator seems more adult than child.
While looking at the effect of child narration on this text I believe it must be noted that there may not in fact be a child narrator as such. However the change in narration after chapter ten may not in fact be from child to adult, but rather, it may have been the author creating the illusion of a child narrator and then revealing the adult behind this narration. While trying to make this distinction, we can look at chapter 9, in which we see Jane’s good friend Helen Burn’s die. In analysing this chapter, we can see that Jane seems to be enjoying a period of happiness due to the other girl’s illness.
This seems to be due to a selfish nature in which a child would not care how they obtain something, and it’s these actions that gives the sense of a child narrator. However Jane does feel a sense of compassion and sadness for her ill friend Helen Burns, but we notice that Jane adapts a very adult outlook on the world and maintains a far broader understanding of events than a child should. This skewed form of child narration accompanied by adult understanding gives this text an incredible realistic form, in which the reader is engulfed and consumed.
We can maintain that the feelings that overcome Jane in her discovery that Helen is dying are not entirely childish, a child would not understand life and death fully and also wouldn’t express emotions in the way Jane experienced “a shock of horror, then a strong thrill of grief, then a desire” p95. The adult presence within the child narration emphasises the effect on the reader, which gives a better insight into the text as we can see how the events in Jane Eyre would affect both adult and child alike.
In light of the above, we can look at both To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre in context of both the same and different narration styles in both. We can see that there is almost a twin narration in Jane Eyre in which there seems to be both child and adult present in the narration, but also we can argue that there is also a twin narration present in To Kill a Mockingbird. As mentioned above, we can see that it may have been the intention of Harper to incorporate both Scout and Jem closely in the text to emphasise the effect of the child narrator Scout.
If we look at various events in To Kill a Mockingbird, we can see that Jem has a greater understanding of events the child narrator Scout. It could have been Harper’s intention to use Scout to portray her view of events as a child and Jem to convey her views looking back while composing the text. If we take chapter eight, in which Miss Maudie’s house catches fire, we can see that Jem understands that Boo Radley had put the blanket on Scout. However, we can see that Scout is bewildered by this, also we may look at the trial of Tom Robinson, both Scout and Jem clearly view this series of events in different ways.
Atticus informs Scout that Jem needs to forget about the trial for a while, during which the reader understands that Jem has been discouraged by the overwhelming sense of injustice that he has witnessed. From these two events it seems obvious and apparent that it was indeed Harper’s intention to use Scout and Jem as twin narrators with Jem almost silent in the process; however it is only his presence that makes a distinct affect on the narration. If we turn to Jane Eyre, chapter ten represents a significant change in narration that is directly linked with the age of Jane at the time.
Jane mentions at the beginning of this chapter that see has presented the first ten years of her life in early as many chapters, however the author skipping the next eight years is extremely significant to the change in narration. Jane after this time has passed is now an adult therefore it seems obvious that the narration should change. It would seem ridiculous to have a child narrating an adult life, in which case the author describes how Lowood has been taken over by kinder people and Jane has continued there to becoming a teacher.
In conclusion, both To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre contained a distinctive form of child narration that enhanced these texts and had astounding effects. The child narration in these texts allowed the reader to participate in text and also to have a greater understanding than the narrator. This creates interest in the reader and allows them to think about important themes in great depth while exploring the world of the text through the eyes of a child.
To Kill a Mockingbird gives us an unjust an immoral world, but more interestingly, this world lay unaware to the narrator Scout. However Harper used Jem to allow us to see the impact this world would have on a child, being only slightly older than our child narrator. Jane Eyre presents an astounding depiction of child narration, with the form of a child and the mind of both child and adult. It is clear that this text modulates between child and adult but still manages to give an interesting form of child narration as did To Kill a Mockingbird.