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GCSE: Harper Lee

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The historical and social context of 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

  1. 1 The novel is set in a fictional town in Alabama in the American south during the depression of the 1930s.
  2. 2 The novel was published in 1960 – just before the Black Civil Rights Movement.
  3. 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. 4 Harper Lee was awarded the Pulitzer prize for To Kill A Mockingbird.

Themes and ideas in the novel

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 1 Use PEE to structure your essays. This is Point, Evidence and Explanation.
  2. 2 The introduction and conclusion should refer to the essay question.
  3. 3 Use appropriate quotes to back up the statements made in the essay.
  4. 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. 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
  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does Harper Lee convey her emotions about racism?

    3 star(s)

    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
  2. Peer reviewed

    How does Harper Lee build up tension throughout the novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird'?

    4 star(s)

    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

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • "Jem and Scout have a childhood that was different from that of the other kids." To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    "Conclusion: Although, Scout and Jem grow up in the same neighborhood and environment, going to the school like others, believing in the same rumours, they did not live like the other children because they weren't really affected by the Great depression. Moreover, they became more mature in their childhood due to their experiences in the trial and they learned more than other children through what their father taught them about moral values. Through their different childhood, they also learned resilience and self-control at a very young age and their minds are not clouded by racial prejudice, adult biases and false accusations. Therefore, we agree with the statement that Jem and Scout had a different childhood than other kids to a great extent."

  • To Kill a Mockingbird. In this essay, one will analyse the character of Arthur Radley (Boo) and discuss how he is displayed to the audience.

    "In conclusion, the reader is given a mixed image of Arthur Radley in the first 9 chapters of the novel. The first image of Arthur is mainly composed of imprudent defamation by Maycombers and the horror-fuelled imagination's of Scout, Jem and Dill. This side of Boo describes him to be an evil man who has no other intention but to prey on the week in the early our of the morning. On the other hand, through the characters of Atticus and Miss Maudie, we see that Boo is the victim of severe parenting and neglect and is not a monster but a "gentle and kind young man". The reader also begins to see in these chapters that, Boo is the ultimate symbol of innocence (a mocking bird)."

  • To Kill a Mockingbird. Discuss the ways in which the whites give the coloured folk hell in the novel.

    "To conclude, the 'hell' the whites force the 'coloured folk' and the suffering they make them endure may vary from case to case. In spite of this, the underlying cause of this is that the whites put themselves above the 'coloured folk' and fail to realize that they are all of the same race - the human race, and all deserve the same respect. Even in the courthouse, in which Atticus says 'all men are created equal', prejudice prevails and Tom Robinson is convicted and made to suffer for a crime he did not commit because of the colour of his skin, and the pigheadedness of a white family called the Ewells."

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