To Kill A Mockingbird. Higher . Historical Setting. Set in the fictional Maycomb , Alabama in the 1930s Depression in the US Alabama was renowned for its racial tensions
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Set in the fictional Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s Depression in the US
Alabama was renowned for its racial tensions
The South had a historical legacy of slavery, lynch mobs, the Ku Klux Klan and legal unfairness towards blacks known as Jim Crow laws
The Great Depression sweeps the nation – Many families do not even have money for basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.
The per capita income for families in Alabama (and Oklahoma) is $125 - $250 a year (£750 in today’s money)
Many southern blacks pick cotton for a living
Franklin D. Roosevelt is President
Loss of childhood innocence
Importance of education (esp.moral)
Complete the TKAM questions you started at the beginning of the year for next week.
Told by Scout looking back on her childhood and the adult world of Maycomb and the novel is shown through her eyes.
Two narratives – one following the children’s relationship with Boo Radley and the other following Atticus’ defence of Tom Robinson. These are brought together at the end – the story comes full circle and we understand how Jem breaks his elbow.
This is probably similar to how class structure existed during the 1930’s in the South. The wealthy, although fewest in number, were most powerful. The blacks, although great in number, were lowest on the class ladder, and thus, had the least privileges.
Examples of each social class:
Wealthy - Finches
Country Folk - Cunninghams
“White Trash” – Ewells
Black Community – Tom Robinson
Maycomb functions as a microcosm of American society.
Lee spends the first part of the novel detailing the world of the novel and its social milieu without which the reader would not understand the context of the trial which dominates the second part of the novel.
In groups discuss your first day at primary school – what similarities are there with TKAM?
Scout – Cunninghams are poor
Scout encounters hypocrisy and racism
Scout – fighter – lynch mob + Jem
Atticus’ advice – Chap 9
Grows up – changing attitudes to Boo Radley after encountering the real evil of Bob Ewell
Constant, principled and decent figure – like Mr Cunningham but his education sets him apart.
Single parent in his 50s
Would have seemed very modern to a 1960s readership
A man of courage – fights prejudice. Embodies themes of the novel.
Flaw? – An idealist?
Beliefs in not harming a “mockingbird” and walking in the shoes of others are central to the novel.
Foil = Bob Ewell
Atticus is scorned in Maycomb for defending Tom Robinson – a sign of the times – but his moral courage makes him admired following this.
Recognises good and evil in people and teaches sympathy for others to his children.
Able to reconcile his honesty and principles with a love for the people of Maycomb.
The children view him as old and “feeble” but the incident with the mad dog shows Atticus’ strength under pressure.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I don't want my boy starting out with something like this over his head. Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open. Let the county come and bring sandwiches. I don't want him growing up with a whisper about him, I don't want anybody saying, 'Jem Finch... his daddy paid a mint to get him out of that.' Sooner we get this over with the better." (30.34)
Examine the ways in which Atticus Finch is the hero of “To Kill A Mockingbird”
- To his children
To Tom Robinson and the black community
To wider society (what values does he have we can all admire?)
After Tom Robinson is shot, Mr. Underwood compares his death to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds,” - Chap 25
At the end of the book Scout thinks that hurting Boo Radley would be like “shootin’ a mockingbird.” - Chap 30
That Jem and Scout’s last name is Finch (another type of small bird) indicates that they are particularly vulnerable in the racist world of Maycomb, which often treats the fragile innocence of childhood harshly.
Atticus said to Jem one day, "I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
Isolated from its community and the neighbourhood
Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough. Chap 31
In many ways symbolises the prejudice of the community. Until Scout stands on the porch and puts herself literally in Boo’s line of vision, she cannot truly understand him.
The dog can be seen to represent evil and lawlessness.
Atticus shoots the dog dead, as he stops the lynch mob, calmly and coolly.
Scout expects the same thing to happen when watching the jury return to give their verdict.
The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactly the same as a cold February morning, when the mockingbirds were still, and the carpenters had stopped hammering on Miss Maudie's new house, and every wood door in the neighborhood was shut as tight as the doors of the Radley Place. A deserted, waiting, empty street, and the courtroom was packed with people. A steaming summer night was no different from a winter morning. […]. I expected Mr. Tate to say any minute, "Take him, Mr. Finch...." Chap 21
Bildungsroman – coming of age story
Social stratification – rigid class structure
Aphorism – pithy one liner such as “Cunninghams always pay their debts”
Epiphany – moment of realisation (such as when Scout is standing on the Radleys’ porch)
Incongruous – not in harmony, out of place
Part of Harper Lee’s style is her use of humour when dealing with the serious subject matter of TKMB.
This fits in with the narrative style as the story is told through Scout’s eyes, giving a childlike playfulness to the story.
Satire = when human vices are held up to be scorned in a humorous or ironic way.
Perhaps a link to the title? Lee is mocking education, small-town America and racists.
In Chapters 23-25, the author is attacking and ridiculing the mindset of a group of people. However, Harper Lee doesn’t have Scout say that these individuals are stupid, prejudiced or hypocritical; Scout simply repeats what they say, and, from the context of the whole story, the reader knows that the narrator is speaking with an ironic tone.
Scout and Miss Caroline – Scout is chastised for being too educated: "We don't write in the first grade, we print. You won't learn to write until you're in the third grade"
Aunt Alexandra and class - she is the contrast to Atticus - she is unable to look past family traits and see the positive traits in families such as the Cunninghams – consider her horror at Scout and Jem bringing home Walter Cunningham – her clashes with Scout over the need to be a lady bring humour to the novel
- Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra's vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father's lonely life. Chap 9
The missionary circle – the concern for the poverty of the Mrunas yet ignore the poverty in their own town.
Miss Merriweather’s lack of insight about her black servants and how reliant she is on them. Plus she congratulates herself on her religious values, despite her apparent lack of Christian ethics "I tell you, Gertrude, you never ought to let an opportunity go by to witness for the Lord."
Miss Gates and Hitler (Chap 26)
“We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship,” she said. “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody.” – compared to her comments on black people following Tom’s trial - “it’s time somebody taught ‘em a lesson, they were gettin’ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us.”
Used by Lee to build suspense, and to emphasise Scout’s childlike innocence.
E.g. When the reader knows, unlike Scout and Jem, what the lynch mob’s true intentions are and these appear more sinister as a result of the dramatic irony.
Atticus being unaware that Jem and Scout are watching the trial.
Scout being unaware of the implications of the conversation between Heck Tate and Atticus following Bob Ewell’s death.
Think about the story of the snowman in TKAM, Jem and Mrs Dubose’s flowers and the incident with the mad dog.
What do you think it represents?
Allegory is a story which also functions on a symbolic level.
Jem’s broken arm
The fire – which melts the snowman
The mad dog
Presents in the tree/Boo puts a blanket around Scout
“It was Miss Stephanie’s pleasure to tell us: this morning Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life” – Bob Ewell makes his intentions clear.
“Thus began our longest journey together” /“This was the stillness before a thunderstorm”as Scout and Jem walk home before being attacked by Bob Ewell. The mockingbird also sings.
This will change depending on where we are in the novel but some good words to use to describe the tone are:
The tone will become more suspenseful/tense towards the climax(the verdict of Tom Robinson’s trial).
(P)Lee is convincing in her use of the literary convention of the bildungsroman which brings to life the novel’s central concern that childhood innocence must give way to adult realism. Following the trial, Jem angrily questions Atticus as to why the adults show an apparent lack of emotion to the unfairness of Tom Robinson’s conviction to which Atticus responds in a way that echoes this theme(E) “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. Good night." It becomes apparent in that moment that the townspeople leave the courtroom in a “cheerful” manner that part of Jem’s childhood innocence is destroyed as he has been faced by the ugly, casual racism and callousness of the community he lives in. (A) By his use of the parallel sentence structure and repetition here Lee uses the character of Atticus to emphasise the cyclical nature of racism – that the ignorance of the community has become so entrenched it has become second-nature. Lee uses Jem’s sense of outrage to mirror that of the reader’s at this point, and contrasts this with Atticus’ resignation that “They’ll do it again” which resonates with the reader. Tom Robinson is not an isolated case, his treatment o is symptomatic of a society that fails to meet the basic American ideals of equality and is happy in its ignorance. In the context of the novel, Jem’s experience clearly highlights the human condition itself, which can be summed up as the passage from innocence to experience. (R) It is only when the children have seen injustice that they accept life is not always fair. Lee leaves the reader pondering the fact that is not enough to close our eyes to injustice and racism, we must address it or risk becoming one of the ignorant townspeople of Maycomb.
Choose a novel which slowly reveals the strengths of the main character.
Show how the writer achieves the revelation and go on to demonstrate how it contributes to the overall theme of the text.
Choose a novel, set in a time different from your own, with a theme relevant to the world today.
Show how you are led to an appreciation of the theme’s continuing relevance, despite its setting in time.