Theme Of Passing In To Kill A Mockingbird

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Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most well-known American novels and has sold over thirty million copies since its publication in 1960. Despite its success, the novel in not often studied outside of high school and college English classes which means some facets of the novel have not received academic attention. This is a gap in scholarship that Holly Blackford attempts to fill with her book Mocking Bird Passing: Closeted Traditions and Sexual Curiosities. Through an examination of the American literary traditions she claims are present in To Kill a Mockingbird, Blackford identifies an array of deeper meanings within the novel’s subtext. The main argument Blackford make is that these hidden themes and prevalent literary traditions…show more content…
The act of “passing” occurs in the instances when Scout hides her tomboyish nature. Depictions of gender issues like Scout’s “passing” are what Blackford claims make the novel about much more than racial injustice and coming of age. Her fifth chapter delves into the novel’s subtext by exploring the possible homosexuality of Scout, Dill, and Boo Radley. She claims the novel sets up the possibility of Scout’s emerging homosexuality but then uses Boo and Dill as convenient replacements so that Scout can pass as a more conventional Southern female. According to Blackford, Boo’s exclusion from society is a result of his inability to “pass” in society where sexual orientation is not up for discussion. Her argument here is a little difficult for me to agree with because I’m not sure I see any signs that point to Boo being gay, like Dill’s effeminate mannerism or Scout’s tomboy nature, but I do agree the Boo remained in his home (either of his own volition or his brother’s force) because his true self was in some way unacceptable to southern society. Her discussion of homosexuality continues on to say that the silencing of Boo and the abandonment of Dill victimize the novel’s possibly queer characters and serve as warnings to Scout to “pass into a social world that will accept her” (p.…show more content…
Blackford provides insightful analysis of the complexities of gender identities present in Lee’s work and exposes the weaknesses of Lee’s racial constructions. However, there are instances in which she loses focus within a chapter and that makes difficult for me to understand what she is actually trying to discuss. For example, in her final chapter she does not attempt to connect the earlier chapters and form a coherent conclusion to her argument. Instead she chooses to discuss similarities between To Kill a Mockingbird and the works of female regional authors, but somehow drifts towards a three-page long history of the Girl Scouts in order to connect Scout’s name to the organization. I found her discussion of the Girl Scouts both confusing and extremely unnecessary as that connection, which could have been explained in a single paragraph, has nothing to do with the writers she is discussing (i.e. Kate Chopin). These criticisms aside, I believe Blackford does a decent job of explaining why the novel became so popular and what areas of it should be studied

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