Personification in To Kill A Mockingbird

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  • 0:00 What Is Personification?
  • 0:41 Examples of Personification
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Garrett

Sarah has taught secondary English and holds a master's degree in Curriculum & Instruction

''To Kill a Mockingbird'' is a classic novel written by author Harper Lee. In this lesson, we'll define personification and discuss some of the examples of it that appear in the book.

What Is Personification?

Which sentence are you most likely to remember: 'The tree branches blew in the wind' or 'The tree danced with the storm?' While both sentences describe what the tree is doing, the second sentence paints a picture of the tree moving in the wind and is more likely to be remembered. Why is this? It's because of the use of personification.

Personification is an example of figurative language where human characteristics are given to non-human objects. The tree in the example cannot literally dance with the storm but we can imagine the movement of the branches in the wind.

Examples of Personification

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930s amid the Great Depression and tells the coming of age story of Jean Louise 'Scout' Finch and her brother, Jem, living in the racially divided South.

Harper Lee, the author, uses personification within the first few pages of the book. When describing the town of Maycomb, Scout, the narrator, states, 'Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it.' During this time, many people struggled greatly due to the Great Depression; they worked hard and were tired. Giving the town the human-like characteristic of being 'tired' reflects the human condition of the town.

In Chapter 1, Scout tells the reader about the mysterious Boo Radley. He got into trouble when he was younger and was put in jail. His father vowed to take care of him, and he was sent home. After that, he was taken home and rarely seen again. According to the town, 'From the day Mr. Radley took Arthur home, people say the house died.' Obviously a house can't really die, but the Radleys stopped taking care of it, making it seem old.

In Chapter 9, Boo makes a secret appearance when a neighbor's house catches fire. Lee uses personification, along with other figurative language, to describe the fire. Scout relays, 'The fire was well into the second floor and had eaten its way to the roof: window frames were black against a vivid orange center.' Lee allows the reader to imagine how powerful this fire really is, by giving it the human-like quality of eating the house.

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