Style of Language

The novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is written in a neutral style of language. The narration uses complex words and phrases, which shows that the narrator is a grown-up Scout.

The narration also uses contractions and informal elements at times: “Jem looked so awful I didn’t have the heart to tell him I told him so” (p. 54). This offers a conversational tone to the narrative and makes it more engaging and easier to follow. 

The dialogue often uses non-standard grammar and spelling, which reflects the characters’ dialects or their social class: 

‘There’s some folks who don’t eat like us,’ she whispered fiercely, ‘but you ain’t called on to contradict ‘em at the table when they don’t. That boy’s yo’ comp’ny and if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?’ (p. 27)

In this example, Calpurnia’s speech is meant to reflect her anger, as Scout says “when she was furious Calpurnia’s grammar became erratic” (p.27). 

Another example of non-standard grammar use in dialogue is shown when Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to the Black church in Maycomb:

‘I wants to know why you bringin’ white chillum to nigger church’

‘They’s my comp’ny,’ said Calpurnia. Again I thought her voice strange: she was talking like the rest of them. 

‘Yeah, an’ I reckon you’s comp’ny at the Finch house durin’ the week.’ (p. 131)


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