Scout (Jean Louise) Finch
That the young narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird goes by the nickname "Scout" is very appropriate. In the story, Scout functions as both questioner and observer. Scout asks tough questions, certainly questions that aren't "politically correct," but she can ask these questions because she is a child. As a child, Scout doesn't understand the full implication of the things happening around her, making her an objective observer and a reporter in the truest sense.
The reader should keep in mind, though, that To Kill a Mockingbird really presents two Scouts: the little girl experiencing the story and the adult Jean Louise who tells the story. The woman relating the story obviously recognizes that her father is exceptional. However, the child Scout complains "Our father didn't do anything . . . he never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish or drink or smoke. He sat in the living room and read." The child Scout marvels that her father knew she was listening to his conversation with Uncle Jack; the adult Jean Louise marvels that he wanted her to overhear the conversation.
Although the story takes place over the course of three years, Scout learns a lifetime's worth of lessons in that span. Here, too, the reader should remember that in many ways To Kill a Mockingbird is Scout's memoir — the adult Jean Louise can better understand the impact of various events than the child living through them.
Scout hates school because in many ways it actually inhibits her learning. Her teacher is appalled that she already knows how to read, instead of celebrating that fact. She is bored waiting for the rest of the class to catch up to her skill level, and she doesn't have more than a passing respect for either of the teachers she describes in the story.
The most sympathy she can muster toward a frazzled Miss Caroline is to remark "Had her conduct been more friendly toward me, I would have felt sorry for her." And she is offended by Miss Gates' comments about African Americans after her staunch and moving support for the Jews in Hitler's Europe. As a sign of her maturity, though, at the end of the story she realizes that she doesn't have much more to learn "except possibly algebra" and for that she needs the classroom.
Scout faces so many issues in the duration of the novel, but one of the most lingering for her is the question of what it means to "be a lady." Scout is a tomboy. Sometimes her brother criticizes her for "acting like a girl," other times he complains that she's not girlish enough. Dill wants to marry her, but that doesn't mean he wants to spend time with her. Many of the boys at school are intimidated by her physical strength, yet she is told she must learn to handle herself in a ladylike way. Oddly enough, the women in her life impose more rigid requirements on her than the men do. Scout's tomboyishness drives Aunt Alexandra to distraction; Miss Caroline sees Scout's outspokenness and honesty as impertinence. Ironically, the person she most wants to please — Atticus — is least concerned about her acting in a certain way. In fact she tells Jem, "'I asked him [Atticus] if I was a problem and he said not much of one, at most one he could always figure out, and not to worry my head a second about botherin' him.'" In the end, though, when she explains why the sheriff can't charge Boo with Bob Ewell's murder, she's become the kind of person who makes her father very, very proud.
The other lesson that Scout is truly able to incorporate into her worldview is the necessity of walking in someone else's shoes. Atticus begins teaching her the importance of looking at things from the other person's point-of-view very early in the story. He points out her own failings in this area and demonstrates his point in his own interactions with other people. At the end of the story, Scout can put herself in Boo Radley's shoes, the person she's feared most throughout the story.