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GCSE: Harper Lee
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The historical and social context of 'To Kill A Mockingbird'
- 1 The novel is set in a fictional town in Alabama in the American south during the depression of the 1930s.
- 2 The novel was published in 1960 – just before the Black Civil Rights Movement.
- 3 Harper Lee grew up in Alabama and her father was a lawyer, like Atticus, the father in the novel. The novel is autobiographical to some degree.
- 4 Harper Lee was awarded the Pulitzer prize for To Kill A Mockingbird.
Themes and ideas in the novel
- 1 Racism and Prejudice – The obvious theme throughout the novel is racism. Tom Robinson , a black man is accused of raping a white woman. Atticus, the father in the novel agrees to defend him knowing that even though innocent he will not be acquitted by the all white jury. There is also class prejudice against the shiftless Ewells who are looked down on by everyone in the town.
- 2 Courage – The courage shown by Atticus who is criticised by his own social circle for defending Tom. Courage is also shown by his children Jem and Scout as they protect their father and have to deal with taunts from other children and adults. This is shown by Boo who kills Ewell when he attacks the children, and by an old lady who chooses to die without the aid of morphine to which she is addicted.
- 3 Loneliness – Mayela is lonely which forces her to proposition Tom which leads to his being wrongfully accused, Boo Radley who is the local hermit and to some degree Atticus whose wife is dead.
- 4 Mockingbird – Throughout the book is a metaphor for human justice ie someone who is innocent and who has done no harm should not be killed.
Essay work on 'To Kill A Mockingbird'
- 1 Use PEE to structure your essays. This is Point, Evidence and Explanation.
- 2 The introduction and conclusion should refer to the essay question.
- 3 Use appropriate quotes to back up the statements made in the essay.
- 4 Topic sentences should be used at the beginning of each paragraph to introduce what is going to be discussed in the paragraph and also to refer to the question in order to keep the essay focused on answering the question.
- 5 The historical and social context is very important when discussing the novel's themes and issues.
- Marked by Teachers essays 13
- Peer Reviewed essays 3
There are also characters such as Mrs Dubose and Aunt Alexandra who are straight minded in their ways and refuse to change their opinions on black people. Mrs Dubose treated Jem and Scout differently because their father was working to defend black people; she shows this by shouting "Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" which shows that the racist views have been embedded into the Maycomb community. Aunt Alexandra shows her racist view about black people by talking to Atticus about sacking Calpurnia.
- Word count: 727
Walter could represent Scout and Jem later in the novel where they got attacked for something that was not their fault by Bob Ewell. This foreshadows the later events and builds up more tension for the reader. Also, during one winter, they had the "coldest weather since 1885". Scout responded to this with "The world's endin'" which shows that there is going to be a change in events, something the Maycomb County have never come across. Furthermore, during this winter, Miss Maudie had a house fire which juxtaposes with the coldness of the snow.
- Word count: 963