Children and Adults ("To Kill a Mockingbird" by H. Lee, "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4" by S. Townsend)

The events in the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird". The opposition between children’s and adults. "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole" as the picture of the world from the point of view of a teenager. Examples of Adrian’s relations with adults in the novel.

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Язык английский
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Minsk State Linguistic University

novel adult teenager relation

Children and Adults (“To Kill a Mockingbird” by H. Lee, “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4” by S. Townsend)


Children and adults perceive world in different ways. An eye of a child is sharp for details, children interpret events from the position of unbiased observers, have their own vision of life events. The theme of children and adults is the central one in two books: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4” by Sue Townsend.

The events in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” are shown from the perspective of Jean-Louise, 6-year-old girl. She and her brother Jem are raised by their father Atticus, a widower lawyer. Jean Louise doesn't understand many things about the world and often comes for the answers for her father. Atticus is excellent example of humanity and fairness, an extremely polite person, demonstrating integrity between his views and his behaviour wherever he is. Jem and Jean-Louise get valuable life lessons from their father, who teaches them to be fair, understanding, and considerate to other people. “You never really understand a person until you consider the things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” he says. Besides that, Atticus tries to provide his children with clear and honest answers to their questions: “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles `em.”

In the novel a reader can see Jem and Jean Louise's emotional and intellectual growth over the course of time. Jem is changing from a child into Mister Jem, he's growing out of old games and activities. Jem becomes wiser and explains things to his little sister not from the position of a child but a grown-up person. He wants to be more independent and resents invasion into his privacy. Jean Louise also develops from a little bright and active child first into a hooligan fighting with boys and using foul language then due to her Aunt's efforts into a girl wearing dresses. Her relationships with family are not easy. At first Jem disapproves her behaving like a girl during their games, then says it's time to do that. Atticus wants her to become more resilient to bad circumstances: “Atticus had promised me he would wear me out if he ever heard of me fighting any more; I was far too old and too big for such childish things, and the sooner I learned to hold in, the better off everybody would be.” Her aunt Alexandra points to Atticus that his daughter's behavior is far from being ideal and makes her behave like a lady. Atticus managed to teach his children what is good and bad, how to understand other people and has always been a moral cue for them. But other adults consider Jem and Jean Louise's exterior side more important thinking that Atticus “lets them all run wild”.

The opposition between children's and adults' perception of the world in the novel reaches its highest point during Tom Robinson's trial. Children are shown as little adults but their better version, sensitive to injustice and free from prejudice. Jem and Jean Louise who have fresh minds are opposed to the old Southern Society with its discriminating attitude towards the coloured, considering people like Tom the lowest class of the society. Atticus Finch who becomes a defender of an innocent black man is sneered at, called “nigger-lover”, thought to be “ruining family”, his children are insulted, bullied. Jean-Louise tells about that time the following: “The adults in Maycomb never discussed the case with Jem and me; it seemed that they discussed it with their children, and their attitude must have been that neither of us could help having Atticus for a parent, so their children must be nice to us in spite of him. The children would never have thought that up for themselves: had our classmates been left to their own devices, Jem and I would have had several swift, satisfying fist-fights apiece and ended the matter for good. As it was, we were compelled to hold our heads high and be, respectively, a gentleman and a lady.”

Watching the trial, the children are sure that justice will win but the jury ignores all the evidence that would justify the poor man who is suffering only because of his skin colour. Jem and Jean-Louise face injustice of the adult people, who still picked the dirty white man over the black man. The children are deeply shocked by that. Jem keeps saying that “it ain't right” and asks his father: “How could they do it, how could they?” and gets the response: “I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it -- seems that only children weep.”

Still there is evidence in the novel that children can influence adults seriously. The power of a naпve little child over a gang of adult men can be seen in the moment near Maycomb's jail when the ingenuousness of Jean Louise talking to Mr. Cunningham drives the gang away and saves her father. Moreover, later in the trial Mr. Cunningham appears to be the only person in the jury who demands the outright acquittal for Tom Robinson.

“The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole” presents the picture of the world from the point of view of a teenager. Adrian's problems are quite typical for his age: he suffers from spots, bullying, unanswered love, his parents' divorce and many other things. His nature is very sensitive; he tends to overreact to everything that happens to him, maintaining a most emotional account of happening events and his relations with peers and adults in his diary.

Unlike Jem and Jean-Louise from “To Kill a Mockingbird”, he doesn't regard his parents as role models. They drink and smoke a lot, have rows all the time, are often unemployed, they get divorced and then come together again. Moreover, often he proves to be more mature than they are. Adrian writes in his diary: “Now my mother has got the flu. This means that I have to look after them both. Just my luck! I have been up and down the stairs all day. I cooked a big dinner for them tonight… they hadn't eaten any of it.” Also he criticizes the ability of his mother to take care of the family: “My mother has not done any proper housework for days now. All she does is go to work, comfort Mr Lucas and read and smoke.” Adrian doesn't share his mother's feminist views and resents messy and weak character of his father. Nevertheless, Adrian loves his mother and feels hurt when she leaves his father. He blames the father for that, writing: “If my father took more care of his appearance, none of this would have happened. It stands to reason that any woman would prefer a man to wear a suit and a lot of gold jewellery to one like my father who hardly ever shaves and wears old clothes and no jewellery.” Adrian's father is morally destroyed and plunges into drinking and spending days without any purpose. He is unable to take proper care of himself and the son (Adrian and he live without electricity or eat bag-boiled food) so Adrian has to look after him and lend him money. Even after parents' reunion Adrian doesn't approve of their behavior and definitely knows that he wouldn't like to follow their footsteps.

Another example of Adrian's relations with adults is his taking care of an old pensioner, Bert Baxter.

At first, having this duty from Good Samaritans group, the boy feels disappointed as he discovers that Bert is not a nice old gentleman. Adrian writes: “Bert Baxter was lying in a filthy-looking bed smoking a cigarette, there was a horrible smell in the room, I think it came from Bert Baxter himself. The bed sheets looked as though they were covered in blood, but Bert said that was caused by the beetroot sandwiches he always eats last thing at night. It was the most disgusting room I have ever seen (and I'm no stranger to squalor).” Nevertheless, Adrian feels his duty and keeps visiting Bert and helping him, consequently getting attached to him. For the harsh old man he becomes a kind of grandson that he never had. Moreover, Adrian's care and concern bring some positive change to Bert's life: he falls in love and marries.

As a sensitive teenager, Adrian is constantly seeking for ways to express himself, though without much understanding from adults' side. He tries himself in poetry but doesn't have much success: his first poem is not appreciated by his mother (“I showed it to my mother, but she laughed. She isn't very bright.”)

After sending poems to BBC he gets responses, encouraging yet polite refusals. Adrian's rebellious mind also leads him to breaking school rules and organizing a “sock protest” joined by his friends.

The protest is even supported by parents but eventually fails at school.

Adrian's relations with adults cannot be easily described. He is “a parent” for his parents but at the same time a child who needs their care and attention. He tends to look down on adults considering himself “an only intellectual in the neighbourhood” but his looks, height and body structure show that he is still an teenager.

Thus, Adrian's diary embraces a difficult period of his life: not a child anymore and not an adult yet.

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