To Kill a Mockingbird

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

To Kill a Mockingbird is an American novel written by Harper Lee. It was published in 1960. The book was a great success. It won the Pulitzer Prize. The book was adapted and made into a 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck. The movie won three Academy Awards.

Lee based the story and characters on her family and neighbors, and something that happened near her hometown in 1936. This was when she was 10 years old.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a Southern Gothic novel and a bildungsroman (a story where the main character develops and grows). Its main themes are white/black racism and innocence. Lee also writes about bravery, compassion, and gender roles in the American Deep South. The book has been taught in many schools in English-speaking countries with lessons about being patient and fair.

It is set during the Great Depression (world depression) of the 1930s. It was first published in 1960 and made into a movie in 1962. It tells the story of a young girl, Jean Louise Finch (known as "Scout") and her brother Jeremy Atticus Finch (known as "Jem"). They live in the Southern United States with their father Atticus Finch, who is a lawyer. In the story, Atticus defends a black man, Tom Robinson, who has been wrongly accused of raping a white woman.

Background and publication[change | change source]

Harper Lee was born in 1926 and grew up in the Southern town of Monroeville, Alabama. There, she became close friends with Truman Capote, who became a famous writer later. She went to Huntingdon College in Montgomery (1944–45), and then studied law at the University of Alabama (1945–49). When she went to college, she wrote for literary magazines, like Huntress and Rammer Jammer. At both colleges, she wrote short stories and other works about racial unfairness, which was not usually written about in colleges at the time.[1] In 1950, Lee moved to New York City, where she worked as a clerk for British Overseas Airways Corporation. While she was there, she began writing essays and short stories about people in Monroeville. In 1957, Lee showed her writing to a literary agent whom Capote had told her about. An editor at J.B. Lippincott suggested to her that she should stop working at the airline and focus on writing instead.[2] Her friends gave her money to help her continue writing for a year.[2]

Lee spent two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird. The National Endowment for the Arts describes how Lee once became so unhappy that she threw her manuscript out the window into the snow. Her agent made her take her writing back again.[3] The book was printed on July 11, 1960. It was first titled Atticus, but Lee changed its name because the story was more than simply about one character.[4] The editors at Lippincott told Lee that she would probably sell only several thousand copies.[5] In 1964, Lee said, "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."[6] Instead of a "quick and merciful death", Reader's Digest Condensed Books chose part of the book to be printed again. This immediately made many more people read it.[7] After it was first published, the book never stopped being printed.

Plot[change | change source]

The story comes from the perspective of 8-year-old girl named Scout Finch, she has an older brother, Jem, who is 4 years older. They live with their father, Atticus, who is a lawyer and they are looked after by Calpurnia, their black maid during the day. The story takes place in a fictional little town called Maycomb, in Alabama, during the Great Depression (1933-1935). At the beginning of the story Scout and Jem are introduced to Dill, he comes to live with his aunt every summer. The kids are intrigued by a recluse they call Boo Radley (real name Arthur Radley). The rumor around the town is that Boo only goes outside of his house at night and hunts squirrels with his bare hands. Dill thinks of a plan to lure him out and dares Jem to pound on the front door. Jem refuses but Dill calls him a coward, Jem has not backed out of a dare since he was born so he ends up doing it. After pounding on the door they all run back to their own house, but for a split second Scout swears she saw a flicker of light in the house, as if they were being watched. Now the kids have grown obsessed with the house, they wonder what Boo looks like and why he doesn't come out. One night they try to break in from the back door to get a glimpse of Boo, however his brother Nathan Radley hears the commotion and fires a shot from his shotgun. the bullets don't hit but the kids learn their lesson.

When school starts Scout and Jem are ridiculed by the other kids their father is protecting a black man, when they ask about it, Atticus tells them that is his client and his name is called Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of the rape of a young white woman. Scout and Jem don't understand why their father is defending a black man since it makes the entire town despise them. Around this time their Aunt Alexandra moves in to help take care of the kids, she doesn't approve of Atticus defending a black man. Every Christmas, the Finch family has a gathering at Finch's Landing, their great-grandfather's early home. There Atticus teaches Scout how to shoot a bb gun, but tells her to remember she can shoot all the bluejays she wants if she can hit them, but it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. As the date of the trial comes closer, the kids get a better understanding of the situation and why their father would deliberately choose to take this case if it meant the hardships he would have to ensure. There neighbour Miss Maudie tells them that though Atticus is old, he is still the strongest person in the town, and will take on the burden that no one in town will take.

On the day of the trial, Scout, Jem and Dill sneak into the amphitheater where they are having the hearing even though Atticus told them to stay home. They watch the trial on the porch with the colored people, they see Atticus but he doesn't see them. Atticus begins the trial politely and addresses the jury, Judge Taylor and the prosecutor in a well mannered way. Mayella Ewell and her father Bob Ewell are rash when Atticus shows more evidence and justification that Tom didn't do anything, rather it was Bob Ewell who hit his daughter when he found the pair together. Atticus creates an image of the Ewells for the jury, a family with no mother, an alcoholic father and 7 kids living in a small dilapidated house lacking many essentials. The Ewell’s don't have any defense rather than he said she said, but the jury still finds Tom guilty. Atticus leaves promptly after the trial and takes the kids with him, he is bitter but he does see light in the dark situation. He tells the kids that he's angry about what the verdict was, however the jury deliberated for a couple hours before reaching a decision. Normally when a black man was accused by a white man, the verdict would be guilty, no questions asked, in a matter of seconds. Atticus says today was a small step forward, the children are upset about the extreme racism that they witnessed especially Jem, who pukes at the thought of the situation. Jem asks his neighbour Miss Maudie how a world like this "could exist" and how they could treat a person like that. She tells him that it might seem at times the entire town is racist and evil, but there are always good people even when it seems everything is dark. She also reminds Jem that Judge Taylor chose Atticus for this case, because he also hopes to see some change in this town. Jem nods, and before he goes to sleep he tells Scout that he's beginning to understand why Boo Radley doesn't leave his house.

Things in Maycomb are relatively back to normal after the trial, however Bob Ewell isn't satisfied and tells Atticus he's going to get back at him if it takes his life, Atticus pays very little attention to this and tells the kids Bob was just angry that he made a fool of him in the court. At school Scout and Jem aren't ridiculed anymore, since all the parents tell their children that Scout and Jem are already going through enough having a father who is crazy enough to defend a black man. Every October the town has a Halloween festival, and this year the elementary school is having a performance so Scout has to go. Jem takes her and when they walk there, they are scared by Cecil Jacobs, one of their classmates. Scout goes to the performance but forgets her lines and as they walk back home, Jem tells Scout to hush, but he hears someone following them. Scout thinks it's just Cecil trying to scare them again, but Jem doesn't think so. They keep on walking and reach the Radley place when someone jumps on Jem, Scout screams and hears a snap, the person tries to attack her but is stopped by another person, Scout thinks it was Jem but it was actually Boo Radley who heard the scream outside his house, he takes Scout and Jem back to their house, and Atticus calls Dr. Reynolds and the sheriff, Heck Tate. Heck goes back to the Radley place and finds Bob Ewell dead from a knife to the chest. Scout tells the sheriff that when they were walking back someone jumped them, and attacked Jem and she heard a snap and screamed, the snap was the sound of Jem’s arm breaking. She than recalls Jem defending her from the attacker not knowing that Jem could not function and passed out right after the snap, and that it was Boo Radley who saved her. The sheriff tells Atticus that Bob Ewell fell on his knife, but Atticus is stubborn and still believes Jem killed him. The sheriff and Atticus are both stubborn and the sheriff tells him to think again, it could not have been Jem, he has already passed out, he points to the corner of the room, and Scout sees for the first time, Boo Radley. His face was pale from not seeing the sun in years, and he was standing awkwardly not knowing what to say or do. Atticus is still not convinced, and he says "Boo would be a hero for saving his kids, but the sheriff tells him, Boo has not left his house in 15 years, all the attention would do an introvert like him no good." Scout tells Atticus that giving Boo the attention would be like killing a mockingbird, Atticus understands what she says and goes with the sheriff’s story. Boo whispers to Scout if she can take him home, because he's afraid of the dark and she agrees. She realises that Boo is still much like a child, she wonders about the times where she, Jem, and Dill tried to make Boo come out, and what he thought of watching them. When she gets back home, she asks Atticus if there are good people in the world, and Atticus tells her that most people are.

Sequel[change | change source]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Shields, p. 79–99.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Alabama Academy of Honor: Nelle Harper Lee". Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  3. "The Big Read | To Kill a Mockingbird". Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  4. Shields, p. 129.
  5. Shields, p. 14.
  6. Lacher, Irene (May 21, 2005). "Harper Lee raises her low profile for a friend; The author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' shuns fanfare. But for the kin of Gregory Peck", Los Angeles Times, p. E.1
  7. Shields, p. 242.

Bibliography[change | change source]

  • Johnson, Claudia. To Kill a Mockingbird: Threatening Boundaries. Twayne Publishers: 1994. ISBN 0-8057-8068-8
  • Johnson, Claudia. Understanding To Kill a Mockingbird: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historic Documents. Greenwood Press: 1994. ISBN 0-313-29193-4
  • Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. HarperCollins: 1960 (Perennial Classics edition: 2002). ISBN 0-06-093546-4
  • Mancini, Candice, (ed.) (2008). Racism in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, The Gale Group. ISBN 0737739045
  • Murphy, Mary M. (ed.) Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird, HarperCollins Publishers: 2010. ISBN 978-0-06-192407-1
  • Noble, Don (ed.). Critical Insights: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Salem Press: 2010. ISBN 978-1-58765-618-7
  • Petry, Alice. "Introduction" in On Harper Lee: Essays and Reflections. University of Tennessee Press: 1994. ISBN 1-57233-578-5
  • Shields, Charles. Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Henry Holt and Co.: 2006. ISBN 0-8050-7919-X