The Loss of Innocence Essay Example
The loss of innocence can appear in many ways. It is represented through Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Pride, and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Throughout each novel a common theme that has appeared is innocence. Each character at one point has shown their growing up and leaving their past behind including their naive beliefs and actions. The loss of innocence plays a significant role in developing the main characters. Although these stories are set with vastly different time periods, they represent many difficulties and hardships in the maturation of both characters. The loss of innocence can occur in many ways; through immaturity, sheltered from hatred and the most natural way, by growing up.
One way innocence has been portrayed is how characters acted older than they were which showed the characteristics of immaturity and asinine and this led to the loss of their innocence. In Romeo and Juliet, the idea of innocence was portrayed through Juliet’s actions. At the start of the play, Juliet acts as a quiet kept girl, oblivious to any sort of threat or danger. The loss of innocence took place when she faked her death after defying her father's wish for her to marry Paris. “I will not marry yet, and when I do I swear it shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate, rather than Paris” (Act 3, Scene 5, Lines 126-130).
Despite saying that her father’s consent is important, she defied him by thinking about herself and not the consequences. This obviously represents the loss of innocence since she tried to prove that she isn’t a little girl anymore and begins to make her own life-altering decisions. This is demonstrated once again in a different perspective in Pride and Prejudice. From the beginning of this novel, the readers could tell that Lydia was a reckless and irresponsible girl who is quite the opposite of Juliet in the beginning. However, they are unknowingly similar in the end when they both take rash actions to prove they are more than capable of achieving things on their own.
When Lydia takes the decision to marry Wickham she ventures the risky waters of life without innocence or ingenuousness. “I have just received a letter from Jane, with such dreadful news. It cannot be concealed from anyone. My youngest sister has left all her friends, eloped and thrown herself into the power of Mr. Wickham” (Austen 269). She took this bold action to prove that she is not some little girl that can be stepped all over. A clear example of Lydia’s actions that shows the readers how reckless actions can result in unfortunate consequences. Lydia Bennet and Juliet Capulet are two young girls that made impulsive mistakes which cost them their morality and innocence.
Previously the loss of innocence was viewed as a foolish or reckless action however another point of view innocence can be viewed through the eyes of the female protagonists in To Kill A Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet. The first glance at the two novels would result in a definite answer that these novels are not similar however when the two female protagonists of these stories are compared they show many similarities. In To Kill A Mockingbird Jean Louise Finch plays a child who has been sheltered off the other side of the tracks in the 1930s. Scout loses her innocence when she witnesses Tom Robinson's jury deliver a very unfair verdict. “Judge Taylor was polling the jury: ‘Guilty ... guilty ... guilty …’ I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” (282 Lee). When she realized that the jury’s action sent an innocent man to prison and cost him his life. She knew that her community was not all it seemed and that there was hate all around her. Because of the hate, she had to witness an immoral case which eventually led to her loss of innocence.
The novel demonstrates how these children learn about injustice and racism in the South during the 1930s. This is similarly portrayed in Romeo and Juliet however in a different era. Juliet Capulet grew up in Verona where two families invested in a feud. Juliet grew up with hatred all around her which is a similarity to Scout Finch. “Two households, both alike in dignity, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes. A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life” (Prologue, Lines 5-8). The beginning of this novel tells the readers that the Capulets and Montagues are utmost foes. This didn’t matter until Juliet met Romeo, the hatred and quibbles led Juliet in the direction of making many mistakes that put her in the way of danger and took the shield of innocence away.
Another way innocence has played a part in these novels is through the misguidance of judgment. In To Kill A Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice, the characters first impressions cloud their judgment. As said in the title of Pride and Prejudice, one of the main female protagonists Elizabeth Bennet actions that cause her to lose her innocence is her prejudice. At the beginning of the novel, Elizabeth was content to let others' opinions shape her outlook. Elizabeth's change in outlook on Darcy shows that she matured over time. At the beginning of the novel, Elizabeth’s first impression was misguided when she overheard darcy saying… “ She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” (Austen 13).
However, when she visits The Pemberley the housekeeper helped her realize that he is a kind, amiable man. “‘I have observed that they are good-natured when children are good-natured when they grow up; and he was always the sweet-tempered most generous-hearted boy in the world.’ Elizabeth stared at her. Can this be Mr.Darcy she thought”(Austen 364). In the end, she takes a more mature look at things and realizes her prejudice was her error. Her maturity shows her growing up as the loss of innocence however in a positive way.
This appears in To Kill A Mockingbird when Jem and Scout have made up their minds without any hard proof evidence. They listen to town rumors and assume the worst through their naivety. Although at the end of the novel Boo Radley saves Jem and Scout from an acrimonious incident. “ I went looking’ for Jem on the ground. I thought Atticus had come to help us and got wore out... ‘Who was it?’ ‘Why there he is, Mr. Tate, he can tell you his name.’ As I said it I have pointed to the man in the corner… ‘Hey Boo’” (Lee 362). Along with the readers, Jem and Scout realizes Boo Radley is just a misguided scrutinized poor fellow. Their naive innocence provoked them to make accusations about Boo Radley before they knew the entire truth. Nonetheless, this made them notice their prejudiced actions. Though they were at fault, in the beginning, their maturity led to their loss of innocence.
Throughout the three novels, there have been numerous examples of when the loss of innocence has been displayed. Some in a positive line of thinking, and some in an unfortunate way. Each novel was written in a different era however the pattern was relevant through the time period until today. When these characters lose their innocence it is as if they lost a part of themselves as well. The three most common ways innocence was lost in these books are when characters grow up or are sheltered from hatred and even by being misguided in judgment.