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Essay: Key characters: To Kill a Mockingbird / The Great Gatsby / Jane Eyre / Hamlet

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To Kill a Mockingbird

Boo Radley is a secondary character that plays a significant role within the novel: To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel is indeed about killing a Mockingbird in a symbolic sense, in which, Boo Radley represents the mockingbird mentioned in the book’s title, while the children of Maycomb, Alabama do the hunting. The phrase itself is the act of praying on those that are deemed as lesser in society but also those that are innocent and kind. When Boo carried an injured Jem to the safety of the Finch home, the hunt for the mockingbird had come to an end. At this moment, Scout realizes her wrongdoings and changes her perspective on Boo. She no longer saw him as lesser but as another human being. After the fire that broke out in her neighbor’s house and Scout’s assumption that Boo had caused the fire to the confrontation with Bob Ewell that resulted in Boo’s heroic act.

Scout Finch is the main protagonist, narrator, and one of the youngest characters in the novel. She undergoes significant character development as the novel progresses as she faces many issues along the way. The question on what it means to “be a lady” arises as Scout is a tomboy. The boys of her town are intimidated by Scout’s physique as her older brother is constantly teasing her for not being “girly enough.” Despite her tough shell, Scout fears one person throughout the novel, Boo Radley, that is. Another issue that she must address is her inability to step into other people’s shoes. This results in her creation of false accusations against Boo, claiming that he had commit arson when her neighbor’s house is burned down. When she tells her father, Atticus, of this, he is greatly disappointed and begins to teach her the importance of stepping into another person’s shoes and looking at things from their perspective. As the story comes to an end, Scout learns her final lesson regarding her one-sided relationship with Boo and changes her views on him as he saves her older brother.

The father of both the narrator and the protagonist, Atticus Finch, is an intelligent lawyer that picks up a case regarding the persecution against a black man, Tom Robinson, in which it is claimed that he had raped a white woman. Atticus is one of the very few — if not the only — adult within the novel that is barely affected by the prejudice that the plot of To Kill a Mockingbird revolves around. He addresses the issues his children face with a stern and fair attitude, as he treats them like adults despite their young age; but his attitude does not only stop with his children, it is also continued in the courtroom. With sheer politeness he proves that Bob Ewell (the father of the woman accusing Tom of rape) is a liar, and questions Mayella (the woman accusing Tom) about her role in the case. The only time Atticus becomes stern, and seriously lectures are when it comes to his children taking advantage of those deemed as lesser, as the people would be less fortunate or less educated. As mentioned earlier in previous analyzations, Boo Radley is a Mockingbird while Scout is the hunter. Atticus’s role in this theme is the guide that advises Scout not to “kill” Boo, or in other words, to mistreat and possibly ruin him.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a highly praised novel and film as the character that inspired the work’s title, Jay Gatsby, guides the plot with his romantic ideals, spontaneous behavior, and emotional drive. This is first seen in the very first chapter as Gatsby is reaching out towards the green light at the opposite end of the lake. This green light represents Daisy and his hopes and dreams for the future; he is using the light as a guide in the darkness to lead him to his goal, the goal being Daisy. He illuminates the life of the wealthy in the 1920s and the various extremes that people would take in order to achieve such wealth and the American Dream.

Daisy Buchanan is a character that has been proven to be unworthy of Gatsby’s unwavering devotion. She appears to be pure in the world of cheaters and liars as the color white seems to be linked to her throughout the novel (white dresses, white flowers, a white car, etc.) which symbolizes innocence in most, if not all, cases. However, as the story progresses, Daisy’s true colors start to show little-by-little and becomes less ideal — she is no longer the pure image she was portrayed as when first introduced. While Gatsby did his best to reach the American Dream to woo Daisy, it could be argued that after their reunion they had fallen in love. However, that is not the case as Daisy had merely used Gatsby as a way to get back at Tom’s past of affairs. Their relationship was only business as Daisy cannot deny her love for Tom when he and Gatsby have an altercation at the hotel. She ends up hitting and killing Myrtle and flees the scene without batting an eye. To her, Myrtle is a merely expendable life, just another person with no social eliteness or high reputation — a nobody. By the time the novel comes to an end, the white that surrounded Daisy no longer represents purity and innocence, but rather a white void. What she lacks is conscious and intellect. She is all Gatsby wants but ultimately betrays him in the end after his death by returning to Tom and continuing to live a lavish life in another city.

Nick Carraway, the novel’s narrator, is able to remain in the background as a spectator but also as the focal point of action. When he first meets Gatsby, Daisy, and Jordan in the first chapter, it is already made clear that he is different from the crowd he chooses to associate with. Nick possess what the other character in the novel lack: personal integrity. Daisy manipulates and uses Gatsby as revenge for Tom’s various amount of affairs. Jordan is very well the unmarried version of Daisy. Gatsby has no shame when it comes to obtaining his wealth as he did so in an illegal manner — how else could he have gotten an abundance of money in such a short period of time? Nick represents the opposite of socialites in the roaring ’20s. He knows all too well of the obdurate misery and misfortune of the wealthy.

Jane Eyre

The narrator and protagonist of Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre, begins the novel as a bitter, angry, and rebellious ten-year-old orphan. She grows into an artistic, sensitive, and fierce young lady as the novel progresses. Jane is then to face continuous opposition as she comes from a low social class and has a lack of financial independence. Despite this, she maintains her fierce and independent spirit, even in the lowly position of governess for the Thornfield estate as she is expected to give up her independence in the unions. She ultimately ends up marrying Mr. Rochester, the head of the Thornfield estate, only after the gains full financial independence from an unexpected inheritance. The novel revolves around Jane’s feminist ideals of being the fierce young woman many women nowadays aspire to be. She brings the issues many females face in society into the light from the 1800s as well as in the 21st century. Jane is able to overcome all of the social restraints put on her from her position as governess and becomes the heroine all women can relate to and hope for.

Edward Rochester, the head of Thornfield and Jane’s lover, is one of the very many twists on the Byronic hero. Although it is mentioned that he is not attractive strictly in physical terms, his forcefulness and great passion make him an appealing and sensual character to Jane. He plays an important role in Jane’s life as he provides her with the sense of family and belonging and unconditional love that she has never experienced before, thus making her emotionally dependent on him. Ironically, the tables turn when Rochester is found disabled after the fire in Thornfield, and Jane returns with an abundance of wealth. At that point, he is dependent on Jane, who is finally financially independent, rather than her depending on him in marriage. They were finally equals. Rochester plays the cliche of a wealthy Byronic hero in his downfall as he is saved by his poor orphan governess, Jane, who makes up for his lost wealth in their union by the end of the novel.

Bertha Mason is Rochester’s mentally unstable wife and Richard Mason’s younger sister. She is described to be a beautiful woman (externally) from a wealthy West Indies family and was married to Edward Rochester in order to combine the wealth of the two families. Bertha shortly begins to spiral into absolute insanity and madness as she learns about the secret behind the motive of their marriage and violently attacks Rochester, resulting in her captivity in the attic under the guard of Grace Poole. She is a character that is to be pitied as she is written to fit the Gothic female figure of “The Madwoman in the Attic.” Her character alone supports Bronte’s views on gender inequality and marriage during the Victorian period in England.


Hamlet has a paradoxical nature that only draws the audience to his character in mere intrigument. Shakespeare’s most dimensional character possesses the doubts and dark mindset that every living human can relate to. He actively participates in his own life and recognizes events happening throughout the play such as the decay of Danish society. Hamlet observes and analyzes the world around him along with simultaneously critiquing himself, which can be found in his various soliloquies throughout the play. Hamlet is a character that represents the general population of humankind and human nature as he is universally relatable in most — if not all — aspects by questioning the concepts of life and death after the murder of his father and confession from the killer (Claudius).
Shakespeare’s villains lack the clarity of absolute evil. Claudius, Hamlet’s antagonist, is both charming and socially adept. He expresses both guilt and distress over the murder of his brother and admiration for Gertrude, his wife, the woman whom he killed his brother for. Claudius takes full responsibility for his actions which is an area that Hamlet falls short in. However, in other ways, Claudius completely mirrors the play’s protagonist as both him and Hamlet believe that how the play ends will justify the means. Both sacrifice humanity in order to grasp their personal and selfish goals. The only thing that marks Claudius as a villain is that he is wrong and that Hamlet is in the right. Claudius is both a murderer and a liar as he ignores his conscience and refuses to ask God for forgiveness. Hamlet openly commits murder and suffers from deep guilt and distress of his conscience, which is something that Claudius does not experience.

Ophelia’s character is deemed as murky and foggy. She is found to be torn between two contradictory voices. Her brother and father believe that Hamlet will only use her and take her virginity as he knows she could never be his wife due to his title and role as king-to-be. Her heart, however, is convinced that Hamlet had loved her despite him claiming that he never did. To her family, she is a figure of an eternal virgin. However, to Hamlet, she is merely a sexual object and a lover. This dilemma throws Ophelia into a whirlwind of madness as she has no way to cope with the contradictory expectations and demands she faces while attempting to remain at an equilibrium. As she grows desperate, she also goes insane, which she has no intention of healing herself from.


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