An Introduction to Harper Lee’sTo Kill a Mockingbird By: Nancy MacDonald
Harper Lee • Born on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama • Youngest of four children • 1957 – submitted manuscript for her novel; was urged to rewrite it • Spent over two years reworking it • 1960 – To Kill a Mockingbird (her only novel) published • 1966 - was one of two persons named by President Johnson to the National Council of Arts
SETTING Maycomb, ALABAMA
Main Characters • Scout (Jean Louise Finch) – six-year-old narrator of story • Jem (Jeremy Finch) – her older brother • Atticus Finch – Jem and Scout’s father, a prominent lawyer who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman • Arthur (Boo) Radley – a thirty-three-year-old recluse who lives next door • Charles Baker (Dill) Harris – Jem and Scout’s friend who comes to visit his aunt in Maycomb each summer • Tom Robinson – a respectable black man accused of raping a white woman • Calpurnia – the Finches’ black cook
Social Class in the Novel 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
Living in a World of Discrimination ACTIVITY: You will go to the assigned website to view a number of photographs depicting racial discrimination. Choose one picture and write a one-page reflection on how you felt upon seeing it. Consider how you would feel if you saw the public sign as a white person, and then as a colored person. Click here to view Photographs of Racial Discrimination A cafe near the tobacco market. (Signs: Separate doors for "White" and for "Colored.“) North Carolina, 1940
Reflecting on What We’ve Read so far…Chapters 1-4 In your journal, answer the following questions: • As the novel begins, we are introduced to the town of Maycomb and its inhabitants through the recollections of the narrator, Jean Louise Finch (Scout). a) What does Scout tell us about the history of the town? What is life like there when Scout is growing up? b) What do we learn about the history of Scout’s family? How is this history linked with that of Maycomb? c) Briefly relate the history of the Radleys. What do you find odd about them? In what ways do the Radleys differ from the Finches? • Dill’s curiosity about Boo Radley sparks a series of attempted encounters with this mysterious, invisible neighbour. Examine each of the following “encounters” with Boo, and answer the questions below: • the dare • the runaway tire • the new game a) What do the children find so fascinating about Boo Radley? b) What is the children’s motive in each of these incidents? c) What evidence is given to illustrate that their actions are not going unnoticed?
Reflections for further ahead… As you are reading the novel for the first time, make entries in your journal at the points indicated below in response to the questions asked. Feel free to write other thoughts and feelings about other parts of the novel as you are reading! • After finishing chapter 11, give your opinion of Atticus. Would you like to have him as a father? • As you finish chapter 13, record your reaction to Aunt Alexandra. What will the relationship between her and Scout be like, in your opinion? • In chapter 14, Dill explains to Scout why he ran away. Have you ever felt like this? • Describe your feelings at the end of chapter 22. Was this the verdict you expected? • Write down your immediate feelings after finishing the novel.
For your Viewing Pleasure… To finish our novel unit, we will be watching the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, as well as the movie “A Time to Kill,” a recent film production based on John Grisham’s novel, which deals with similar issues of race and justice. Be prepared for some questions on the final exam on both of these movies!!
"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."