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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
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