- Join over 1.2 million students every month
- Accelerate your learning by 29%
- Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
GCSE: Harper Lee
Meet our team of inspirational teachers
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
He teaches them that being courageous is standing up for what you think is right no matter what others believe. Indeed, Atticus demonstrates courage when he undertakes the task of defending Tom Robinson, a black man wrongly accused of rape. The racist views of the town are against Atticus defending Tom Robinson. Atticus knows he won't win the case and it takes courage for Atticus Finch to go against people's beliefs in order to do what he believes was morally right.
- Word count: 1913
Atticus repeats this lesson and demonstrates it when he teaches them to sympathize with Mrs Dubose and the Ewells. We learn that Scout has learnt this life lesson when she sympathises with Mayell Ewell's loneliness during the trial; Atticus not only teaches this lesson to his children but likewise uses this technique with the white jury trying to make them stand in Tom Robinsons shoes. Atticus is a single parent of Jem and Scout who has morals and a good conscience.
- Word count: 1525
It also shows the reader the innocence of a child at many times, especially involving the topic of prejudice. The character of Scout is developed through out the book as she faces many situations and there consequences. We meet many characters from all different races, her father (white), her housekeeper (black), her aunty (white.) A character who is introduced to us as one of the key role models in Scout's life is Atticus. He is portrayed as one person who is against prejudice and shows respect to every person. 'You'll get along better with all kinds of folk,' is something he says when explaining to his child.
- Word count: 1039
Prejudice is based on racism or generalization about a group of people; the best examples of these are ones where there are laws against certain groups of people. In To Kill a Mocking Bird there are no laws in the book about other groups of people but the higher classes state that is morally wrong to have anything to do with a lower class. We also see that certain people open their mind for example Aunt Alexandra see that Walter is as much human as she is this is evident on both counts while in a conversation with Atticus Aunt Alexandra says, "I've been wrong, Atticus.
- Word count: 1644
This self-pride is far more important to Atticus than mere cheap popularity. "I've got to live with myself" is how he explains to Scout about his determination to defend Tom Robinson. Of course pride is not always admirable. Proud people are often found to be conceited and snobbish; but Atticus is neither: although he is "the deadest shot in Maycomb County" he never boasts about this talent and would certainly disapprove of Scout or Jem boasting on his behalf. Despite his many talents, Atticus is a modest man. Yet, regardless of his achievements, his career and his education he never looks down on others, never assumes anyone is inferior to himself.
- Word count: 1282
Because the book is set in the 1930's in America the racism in the society is not as strong as it used to be but it is still around and people cannot trust black people as much as white people just because of principle, for example the jury in the court case probably want to say that Tom Robinson is not guilty but because of the society and the principle they cannot. I think that Harper Lee wanted readers to learn about the seriousness of racism in the 1930's and the court case of Tom Robinson allows Harper Lee to
- Word count: 1562
This reflects on the period because this book was written in the time of the Great Depression. This was the period in which America's economy collapsed, causing many businesses to close down. This led to the thousands of jobless citizens. Shantytowns grew and racial tension became immense, as white people were jealous at the blacks that had jobs. Also segregation in America took place even though the black community had been emancipated in the mid 1880s, they were still treated as an under class till the 1950s. Segregation meant that black people could not drink form the same water fountains, shop in the same convenient stores and they couldn't even sit at the front of the bus.
- Word count: 1910
When he wants them to learn from their mistakes he does not force them to blindly just follow his orders like soldiers but rather understand why they should or should not be doing something. This is so that they do not participate in something Atticus does not approve of behind his back as they will know why they are refraining from that thing. The reader can see from his reasoning and kind nature that he is a character that feels that even his own children deserve to know about their actions.
- Word count: 1955
How does Harper Lee use language and symbolism to represent the prejudice and narrow-mindedness of common citizens in Maycomb County?
But dig deeper, and Tom and Boo start to look more similar: both are disabled in some way (Tom's crippled arm, Boo's crippling shyness), both are innocents with a bad reputation, and both are compared to mockingbirds. Perhaps most tellingly, Tom and Boo both serve as scapegoats for their community, being blamed for things they didn't do. As foils, they reveal less about each other than about the community they live in, and suggest that the people a community includes say less about it than those whom it excludes.
- Word count: 1758
They all merge into one action-packed and very dramatic chapter, that will have lasting impacts on the kids. 2. Scout decides to keep her costume while walking home. How does this affect her understanding of what happens on the way? Because Scout is "trapped inside" a costume made of chicken wire and paper mach�, she can't see or hear what's going on outside. This magnifies her anticipation of "something out there" even if for the moment she's sensorially deprived. Scout can only count on Jem and feeling her way along the path to know what's going on.
- Word count: 1842
During this trial she gets teased by friends because her father was helping this black man. Scout starts to see the racism that exist. During the trial Scout and her brother and close friend Dill witness the trial. Even though they are young they can see that Mr. Robinson is innocent. Even though Mr. Robinson's innocence was clear even in the eyes of kids, Mr. Robinson was still found guilty. Later in an attempt to escape, Mr. Robinson is shot dead. Scout is extremely disappointed at the verdict and even more at the death of Mr.
- Word count: 1381
From our first introduction to Mrs Dubose, she is portrayed as a witch-like character; sitting on her porch, being mean to passing residents such as Scout and Jem. From Scout's perspective, she is shown to be "vicious" (page 106) and is described in depth using quite disgusting imagery: "Her face was the colour of a dirty pillowcase", "Old age liver spots dotted her cheeks" and "Her hands were knobbly" (all from page 113). All of this early commenting from Scout's perspective is used by Harper Lee to give us a judgement conceived before we are even properly introduced to Mrs
- Word count: 1561
Miss Maudie Atkinson lives across the street from the Finch family; she had known the Finches for many years, having been brought up on the Buford place, which Choi 2 was near the Finch's ancestral home, Finch Landing. She is described as a woman of about fifty who enjoys baking and gardening. Miss Maudie befriends Scout and Jem and tells them about Atticus as a boy. During the course of the novel, her house burns down; however, she shows remarkable courage throughout this - she even jokes that she wanted to burn it down herself to make more room for her flowers.
- Word count: 1138
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.
One of the central themes of "To Kill a Mockingbird" is the process of growing up and developing a more mature perspective on life. As the children mature, we correspondingly gain a new understanding of Boo Radley due to their more sophisticated view of the world. We first see the other side of Arthur when he shelters Scout from the harsh winter weather with a blanket giving the reader a sense that there is more than meets the eye. This technique used by Harper Lee paints a full story of Boo whilst showing us that Good and evil can coincide with in one person.
- Word count: 1600
What do the trial scenes in To Kill a Mockingbird reveal to us about the nature of prejudice and how it has affected the inhabitants of Maycomb at the time the book is set?
This allows us to see the story unfold in both the eyes of an innocent and na�ve child, and the eyes of a more mature and understanding adult; thus allowing us to have an understanding of the events in a way that the young Scout did not. Scout gradually matures over the course of the story from an innocent young child to a young adult beginning to understand moral integrity. She leads us through the trial scenes showing us the innocence of a child who has been exposed to an uncomfortable and undying truth of human nature for the first time; that the human race is divided by a racial hierarchy.
- Word count: 1245
To Kill a Mocking Bird. Atticus is an excellent role model of a good citizen because he is not racist especially at a time when the white people are superior and have the power to discriminate.
Dolphus Raymond is also considered an outcast in Maycomb because he is always drinking coke covered by a paper bag which the Maycomb people suggest is whisky. Therefore they think he is delirious so they can't rely on him to do anything. He pretends he is an alcoholic, but he only drinks Coca Cola out of a sack. He does this to put the people of Maycomb at ease, to give them a reason why he married a black woman.
- Word count: 1835
Atticus' calm wisdom is demonstrated during the mad dog incident, as he does not panic, but instead focuses on hitting is mark: Tim Johnson. When he faces a lynch mob, he remains calm, and does not become very agitated. Although Bob Ewell disgraces him by spitting on him, he does not retaliate, but instead "took out his handkerchief and wiped his face", and "let Mr Ewell call him names". Atticus exemplifies his strong moral courage and sense of justice when he does not refuse to take up Tom Robinson's case although it costs him his reputation.
- Word count: 1886
Do as I tell you. Run now. Take care of Scout you hear?". He is putting a lot of pressure and responsibility on Jem. He wants Jem to grow up and become more responsible steadily. Throughout the book he gives Jem more and more responsibility, asking him to do the odd thing more and more. Scout and her father have a close relationship. He meets her half way when Scout has a problem. An example of this is "If you'll concede the necessity of going to school, we'll go on reading every night just as we always have.
- Word count: 1839
At the beginning of the extract, the reader gets an idea that Scout shared a very professional relationship with Atticus, "I told Atticus I didn't feel very well and didn't want to go to school if it was alright with him". Not only does this show us that she was not very close to Atticus but also that she like a typical child thought of some unpersuasive excuse to give to a person for not going to school. Atticus appears to be a thoughtful man here who gives a lot of significance to his conversation with Scout.
- Word count: 1057
Scout is finally able to see life through Boo Radley's perspective at the end of the novel. Scout understands how Boo sees life when she is standing on his front porch. Lee says, "Atticus [is] right. [....] he [says] you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch [is] enough" (279). This quote is from Chapter 31, in which, Scout walks Boo home. It is on the porch that Scout finally sees the world from Boo's perspective, both mentally and literally. Scout is standing there, thinking about of what events are happening in Maycomb, and how everything appears to Boo.
- Word count: 1263
Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee explores the different forms of prejudice present in Maycomb society be it prejudice against women (sexism), racial prejudice or prejudice against anyone who chooses not to adhere to social expectations.
Maycomb is controlled by rigid sexism and gender rules, which Scout Finch is perplexed by. Scout is, in essence, a tomboy in a society that expects her to be "a lady". Despite the absence of a mother, Scout has been raised by her father, Atticus, to view and treat women as equals. Therefore, Scout is strongly against the idea of women being 'housewives' and believes that as a girl she can do everything that a boy could do, and is consistently trying to prove this to her older brother Jem by joining in with his games.
- Word count: 1087
Chapter 11 is orientated around Mrs. Dubose, Jem, Scout and Atticus. Mrs. Dubose is known as the meanest old woman who ever lived and she represents the traditional and prejudiced side of Maycomb against Negroes.
Jem retaliates to Mrs. Dubose's comments about his father by cutting off the heads of every camellia bush Mrs. Dubose owns. It is not till after doing this that he realises he has done wrong and he can't face Atticus as he knows he will be in trouble and he knows he has gone against his father's word. I think Jem acted in such a way as he doesn't want to hear bad things said about his father as in his opinion his father is a gentleman and a very brave man. Jem is also really close to Atticus so he can't stand it when someone says anything bad about his father.
- Word count: 1035
It also shows the Negroes to be forgiving as 'lightning rods guarded graves in which the dead rested uneasily.' Although there are few sinners in the graves, the Negroes still want them to be in peace because they believe they should be treated with equality. 'First Purchase' is 'unceiled and 'unpainted within ,' and there are no 'pianos, hymn books or organs,' but that doesn't matter to the Negroes. All that matters is that at least they have a church and they can carry out the the duties of a faithful Christian.
- Word count: 1067
Bob Ewell, on the other hand, neglects his children. He spends his main source of income, welfare, buying alcohol for himself. His children are unhygienic and unhealthy, and basically take care of themselves. He doesn't realize the importance of school, and he doesn't allow his children to go to school. The following quotation on page 183 proves this: "The jury learned the following things: their relief check was far from enough to feed the family, and there was strong suspicion that Papa drank it up anyway-he sometimes went off in the swamp for days and came home sick; the weather
- Word count: 1081
What do you learn from "To Kill a Mockingbird" about the treatment of black people in the southern states of America in the 1930s?
In Chapt 12, Lula is incensed that Calpurnia is bringing Scout and Jem, white children, to the black church , "I wants to know why you bringin' white chillum to nigger church". Calpurnia points out to her that they are worshipping the "same God", and Jem realises their ways are not that much different "He's just like our preacher". Dolphus Raymond, a white man who dared to have a relationship with a black woman, and so have mixed-race children, is rejected by both sides of society, and fits in nowhere.
- Word count: 1122