"Coming Of Age" Theme In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1714 words - 7 pages

There comes a time is each person's life when they reach the point where they are nolonger children, but adults. The transition from a child into a young adult is oftenreferred to as the 'coming of age,' or growing up. The time when this transition occurs isdifferent in everyone, since everyone is an individual and no two people are alike.Certain children reach this stage through a tragic, painful event which affects them tosuch extent that they are completely changed. Other children reach this time by simplygrowing older and having a better understanding of the world around them. The comingof age really is indefinite and cannot be marked in general overview. This stage in life isone of the most important and most popular themes in literature. The coming of agetheme is found in one of the one of the best coming to age stories that have ever beenwritten. Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird is a sensitive touching portrayal of ayoung boy who grows up through shocking yet realistic events.Although many people are only aware of the coming of age theme throughliterature and other forms of entertainment, there is also a very realistic part to this eventin a person's life which is often ignored. The coming of age is an event which is oftencelebrated in many different cultures, through rituals or ceremonies. The rituals, alsoknown as passage rites, mark the passing of a person from one stage of life to the next:birth, infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age, and death. The coming of age is celebratedalong with birth, and death because it is known as a universal life crises. Evokinganxiety, these crises often elicit passage rites. Arnold Van Gennep stated that 'Passagerituals have three steps: separation from society; inculcation-transformation; and return tosociety in the new status.' (1995, Grolier Encyclopedia)All passage rituals serve certain universal functions. 'They serve to dramatize theencounter of new responsibilities, opportunities, dangers. They alleviate disruption in theequilibrium of the community. They affirm community solidarity, and the sacredness ofcommon values.' (1995, Grolier Encyclopedia)In addition, cultures use initiation ceremonies to mark the transition fromchildhood to adult status. Rites for males are usually more elaborate and dramatic andgenerally involve the community more than do those for females. Among the AfricanGusii, for example, girls are at about age nine, boys at twelve years old; Thonga boysmay be sixteen. Boys rites often involve seclusion from women, hazing by older males,test of manliness, and genital operations, including circumcision. Girls rites are just asbad if not worse with things like removal of the clitoris. In some places in NorthAmerica, the ritual is individual where as in Africa and Oceania the ritual can becollective. A plain Indian adolescent boy undertakes a vision quest; he goes out aloneinto the wilderness, endures hardship, and seeks a vision from his animal guardian spirit;if he gets one, he...

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