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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

    Courage in To Kill A Mockingbird

    4 star(s)

    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
  2. Marked by a teacher

    To Kill a Mockingbird: How Harper Lee presents the character of Atticus Finch

    4 star(s)

    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
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Explore how Harper Lee presents the theme of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird.(TM)

    4 star(s)

    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
  4. Marked by a teacher

    What Does 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Reveal About the 1930s American Society?

    4 star(s)

    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
  5. Marked by a teacher

    What Is The Importance Of "Atticus Finch" in "To Kill A Mocking Bird" by Harper Lee?

    4 star(s)

    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
  6. Marked by a teacher

    To Kill a Mockingbird: GCSE Coursework

    3 star(s)

    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
  7. Marked by a teacher

    'How does Harper Lee use the trial scene to show the social divides in Maycomb's society?'

    3 star(s)

    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
  8. Peer reviewed

    To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

    4 star(s)

    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

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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