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To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee. Author Information. Nelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American novelist known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird . Lee was born in the small, southwestern Alabama town of Monroeville.

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author information
Author Information
  • Nelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American novelist known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Lee was born in the small, southwestern Alabama town of Monroeville.
  • The youngest of four children, Lee was born to Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee.
  • Her father worked as a newspaper editor as well as a lawyer and eventually served on the Alabama State Legislature from 1926-1938.
author information1
Author Information
  • As a child, Lee was a tomboy yet a committed reader.
  • She also enjoyed a childhood friendship with Truman Capote.
  • After graduating from high school in Monroeville, Lee enrolled at Huntingdon College in Montgomery (1944-1945).
author information2
Author Information
  • After Huntingdon, Lee pursued a degree in law from the University of Alabama (1945-1949).
  • While there, she wrote several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, Rammer Jammer.
author information3
Author Information
  • Though she did not complete her law degree, she pursued studies for a summer in Oxford, England before eventually moving to New York City in 1950.
  • In New York, Lee worked full time as a reservation clerk for Eastern Airlines.
  • She worked with the airline until the late 1950s when she devoted herself full time to writing.
  • She lived a frugal lifestyle, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York and her family home in Alabama to care for her ailing father.
author information4
Author Information
  • Having only written several long stories, Lee was hesitant to begin a career as a writer; however, within a year, she had completed the first draft of the novel that would bring her world-wide acclaim.
  • Working closely with her editor, she completed To Kill A Mockingbird in the summer of 1959.
author information5
Author Information
  • The novel was first published on July 11, 1960. It became an immediate bestseller and won her critical acclaim.
  • In 1961, she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
  • Today, there are over 15 million copies in print, and a 1999 poll voted To Kill A Mockingbird as the “Best Novel of the Century”
author information6
Author Information
  • “I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”

Harper Lee, 1964

author information7
Author Information
  • After the success of Mockingbird Lee accompanied Truman Capote to Holcomb, Kansas to assist him in researching what they thought would be an article on a small town’s response to the murder of a farmer and his family. Capote expanded the material into his best-selling book, In Cold Blood.
  • Since the publication of Mockingbird Lee has granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances, and with the exception of a few short essays, she has published no further writings.
  • She did work on another novel for years, eventually filing it away as unpublished.
author information8
Author Information
  • In 1962, Mockingbird was transformed into a wildly successful film, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.
  • The film won two Academy Awards for Screenplay (Horton Foote) and Best Actor (Gregory Peck).
southern gothic literature
Southern Gothic Literature
  • Southern Gothic Literature is a subgenre of the Gothic writing style.
  • It relies on the supernatural, ironic or unusual events to guide the plot.
  • Often it uses these tools (characters) to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South.
  • Many Southern Gothic writers avoid general southern stereotypes like “the demure Southern belle,” “the chivalrous gentleman,” or “the righteous Christian preacher.”
  • Instead the author presents the characters in a more modern and realistic manner.
southern gothic literature1
Southern Gothic Literature
  • One of the most notable features of Southern Gothic Literature is “The Grotesque.”
  • This includes situations, places or stock characters that possess negative qualities (i.e. – racial bigotry, self-righteousness).
  • Many writers use flawed characters to further highlight the unpleasant nature of Southern culture.
southern gothic literature2
William Faulkner

1897-1962

The Sound and the Fury

As I Lay Dying

Absalom, Absalom!

Light in August

“A Rose for Emily”

Southern Gothic Literature
southern gothic literature3
Flannery O’Conner

1925-1964

Wise Blood

The Violent Bear It Away

A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories

Everything That Rises Must Converge

Southern Gothic Literature
southern gothic literature4
Tennessee Williams

1911-1983

A Streetcar Named Desire

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Glass Menagerie

Southern Gothic Literature
southern gothic literature5
Truman Capote

1924-1984

In Cold Blood

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Southern Gothic Literature
southern gothic literature6
Cormac McCarthy

1933-

Child of God

All the Pretty Horses

No Country For Old Men

Southern Gothic Literature
the scottsboro boys
The case of the Scottsboro boys arose in Scottsboro, AL during the 1930s when nine black youths (ranging from 16-20) were accused of raping two white women.

The trial is considered one of the worst American judicial travesties.

The Scottsboro Boys
the scottsboro boys1
The Scottsboro Boys
  • All the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death.
  • Despite the fact that one of the woman denied being raped, the appeals courts found them guilty as well.
  • Finally the case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court where the sentences were overturned.
  • All of the defendants were eventually acquitted, paroled and pardoned after serving years in prison.
setting
Setting
  • The American Civil War (1861-1865) had staggering and long-lasting effects on the nation.
  • More than 600,000 Americans were killed. Property damage was enormous, especially in the South.
  • Many Southern cities, factories, plantations and railroads lay in ruin.
  • Between 1865-1877 the Union restored relations with the Confederate states in hopes of rebuilding the South.
  • Reconstruction was only partially successful.
  • The South lagged behind the rest of the nation economically, largely remaining an agricultural area.
setting1
Setting
  • During Reconstruction, there was a lack of support from most Southern whites.
  • Many Southern whites could not accept the idea that former slaves were now landowners as well as voters and eventually holding office.
  • In time, Southern whites regained control of their state legislature and many of the rights slaves had won were quickly taken away.
  • Lee’s fictional small town of Maycomb is an isolated setting. The outside perspective and industrialization has changed it little.
  • Maycomb’s citizens, by and large, hold the same opinions as their grandparents.
setting2
Setting
  • The story begins in the summer of 1933 and ends on Halloween night, 1935.
  • The country is faced with widespread poverty and unemployment due to the Great Depression.
  • Former slaves work as field workers or house servants, whereas white land owners grow and trade crops. Both groups are cash poor.
  • Situated 20 miles southeast of the nearest river and more than 30 miles from Selma, Maycomb is slow to respond to any type of change.
  • Because of location, new ideas and newcomers are not easily accepted.
point of view
Point of View
  • Lee uses Scout Finch as a first person narrator. Every experience is seen through Scout’s eyes.
  • First person affords an increased sense of immediacy, a sense of actually experiencing the events.
  • The voice (Scout) is reflective, increasing the meaning for the narrator.
  • Scout’s inexperienced nature create an innocence in her character.
  • Her openness and sensibilities give credibility to the opinions and judgments she makes.
themes prejudice
Themes: Prejudice
  • Prejudice is the intellectual and moral bias of people who hold strict opinions without having examined the available facts.
  • Most white people in Maycomb believe that prejudice against blacks must strictly upheld if southern society is to be preserved.
  • Prejudice often leads characters to hypocrisy. Sometimes the hypocrisy is unintentional. The missionary circle ladies and Miss Gates are unaware of the depth of their prejudice.
themes understanding
Themes: Understanding
  • Atticus teaches Jem and Scout the importance of seeing life from another person’s point of view.
  • The children learn to respect the behavior of very different people (Mrs. Dubose, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson).
  • Scout fails to understand the Ewell family because their background and behavior are so unlike all else in her experience.
  • Understanding is seen as the key to peaceful coexistence between the two communities.
themes loss of innocence
Themes: Loss of Innocence
  • Scout is innocent and inexperienced. Her world is determined by the boundaries of her community.
  • The arrival of Dill gives Scout her first impression of the variety of life’s experiences.
  • Scout outgrows her childish superstitions and better understands the tragic results of prejudice.
  • The verdict leads Scout to question the nature of justice and wisdom displayed by the townspeople.
  • Ultimately, Scout realizes Boo is the mockingbird. She has come to understand how another person sees the world.
themes education
Themes: Education
  • The classroom is a microcosm of Maycomb society.
  • Education is seen as a force that separate them.
  • Mrs. Caroline relates to the students according to family type and status; such behavior perpetuates prejudices.
themes religion
Themes: Religion
  • Mr. Radley, a very strict Baptist, treats Boo cruelly, without compassion.
  • Miss Maudie’s directness and honesty are contrasted sharply with the hypocrisy of the missionary tea ladies.
themes a time for courage
Themes: A Time for Courage
  • Jem demonstrates courage by touching the Radley house. Later, he returns for his pants.
  • Atticus shoots a rabid dog with one shot.
  • Atticus is seen as a moral compass. (Ex. Atticus vs. mob)
  • Atticus explains to Jem and Scout that courage consists of confronting a situation or accepting a challenge when failure is likely. (Ex. Mrs. Dubose’s struggle to end her addiction)
  • Atticus defends Tom Robinson to the best of his abilities, refusing to be intimidated or compromised, even though he knows Tom has little change of being saved.
  • Bob Ewell, a coward, attacks the children in the darkness.