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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

    To Kill a Mocking Bird. In this essay, I will explore the ways in which family relationships are presented, specifically within the Cunningham, the Radley and Ewell families and will refer to the language devices and techniques used to explore theses rela

    5 star(s)

    However, the sympathy gained by the family is tainted by the actions of their father, Bob Ewell. Scout utilises metaphorical language and similes to construct an account of Bob Ewell as being an arrogant and careless "redneck". His nature is clarified in Tom Robinson's trial when Scout narrates him to be "a little bantam cock of a man" transforming the sympathy of the reader to disgust of the Ewells and their undeniably unsettled family affiliation. Later on in the trial scene, the reader determines that Bob Ewell has no affection towards his daughter Mayella.

    • Word count: 2546
  2. Marked by a teacher

    In this essay I will be exploring Jem and Scout's journey to maturity throughout the novel; To Kill a Mockingbird

    5 star(s)

    The atmosphere of summer is created by what they do. In summer it is a time for relaxing; with no work to do. 'Improving our treehouse' is one of these relaxing things which they can do in the summer due to the suitable, warm weather. An example of their naivety is Jem's description of Boo Radley to Dill and Scout, also in chapter one, on page 14: '...six-and-a-half feet tall...dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were blood stained...long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.'

    • Word count: 2483
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss Harper Lee's portrayal of the black community in To Kill A Mockingbird

    5 star(s)

    It is narrated by a little girl and this gives the novel an interesting take on racism, as she does not understand why the black people are being ostracised. In the novel, it is easy to find evidence that the people of the black community are being portrayed as victims of the society's racist attitude "if you was a nigger like me, you'd be scared, too." Tom Robinson knew that at that time, in the Deep South, a black man didn't stand a chance of being found to be innocent by the courts, because everybody there was a racist who wanted to put him in jail; regardless of whether or not he had done anything wrong.

    • Word count: 2199
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Examine the nature of prejudice in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Are there any signs of this prejudice breaking down by the end of the novel?

    4 star(s)

    Another factor is the era in which the story is set. Although the author doesn't state an exact year, the story was first published in 1960, a time when racial and class distinctions and prejudices ran high. At first, Maycomb appears to be a quiet, content old town. However, as we read further into the novel, we learn more, by the events in the story, of the town's intricacies and turmoils. We even discover that some residents take the law into their own hands, which causes uproar and Scout and Jem learn what it's like to trust, and be let down.

    • Word count: 2235

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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