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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.
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 rela5 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
In this essay I will be exploring Jem and Scout's journey to maturity throughout the novel; To Kill a Mockingbird5 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
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
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
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
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
Furthermore, Lee builds up an increasingly uneasier atmosphere through Scout's narrative. "..time had slowed to a nauseating crawl.". This description suggests to the reader that there is a lot of tension, and the atmosphere is apprehensive and uncomfortable, as everything has seemed to slow down. Lee also uses the simile of "He walked quickly, but I thought he moved like an underwater swimmer..", which juxtaposes Atticus' quick and trepidatious walk, with Scout's portrayal of the event.
- Word count: 542
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
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
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
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
Examine the different kinds of prejudice and injustice which you have found in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. How does Harper Lee convey these to the reader?4 star(s)
'To Kill a Mockingbird' is written in first person narrative and from the viewpoint of a young tomboy called Scout. It is the story of a young girl growing up in a small town in the South of America. The town is typical of the South but Scout lives in a very fair-minded household where, through mistakes of herself and others, learns many lessons and grows. The story takes us from Scout at a young age to Scout as an adult looking back on her childhood.
- Word count: 6362