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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.
Atticus Finch is a lawyer assigned to a case involving a black man called Tom Robinson. He is one of the very few people who is willing to truly defend a Negro. There are several occasions in the book when the segregation of black and white becomes very clear. For example, black people have their own section in the courthouse. The reason that Bob Ewell takes the risk of accusing Tom Robinson is that he knows that the court will be against Tom and that he will almost certainly lose the trial. What he does not take into account, however, is Atticus Finch and the determination that he is going to have for this case.
- Word count: 633
Nathan about it. But he replies that the tree is dying and the cement will keep it alive. He asks Atticus if this is so and is told that it isn't true. Atticus adds that Mr. Nathan knows more about his trees than they do. He feels bad and cries. This chapter deepens the mystery of Boo Radley, first with Jem's revelation about the repaired and folded pants and then with the appearance of the gifts in the knot hole. Jem's Egyptian Period is ironically described. Jem is the very much the kind of boy who has obsession fancies from time to time-but this gives way to his lawyer- like investigation of the presents they receive, his questioning of Atticus about the spelling medal, his writing of the thank you letter.
- Word count: 3682
as if he has done it everyday of his life. When Jem finally breaks the barrier of fright, dashes forward and touches the house, he has his first test of courage with Dill and Scout. Although it is just a silly childhood test, it is the first step into Jem's way of understanding people, which we learn about later. A later incident: Jem's reaction to Ms. Dubose, which causes Jem's wild attack on her camellias, conveys two messages to the reader, one to do with racism and one with understanding.
- Word count: 871
Atticus Finch is the pillar of strength that holds the novel together. He is not only the source of strength for the novel itself, but also for his children and the community of Maycomb.
The bad treatment he receives spills over to his children as well. His own children, Jem and Scout were even once embarrassed of him because he was older than the other fathers, that he does not hunt or fish, and they felt that he never achieved anything of significance. Atticus is a humble and modest man who preferred not to show off his talents.
- Word count: 440
The play is used to reflect Willy Russells earlier life and Russell shows this by creating'empathy' between the audience and the working class characters, "Once I had a husband... me husband had walked out on me" but he also presents things from eddies point of view , a rich friend trying to help but ending up the getting the blame. Mickey relates strongly to Russell and it seems as though Russell is telling us how he feels about society through the60s - 80s by how Mickey expresses his feelings in the play.
- Word count: 2447
In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee, the theme of coming of age is explored through Scouts various personal experience and lessons that she has accomplished in the novel.
Secondly, the theme of coming of age is discovered when she discovers the coexistence of good and evil. As Scout gets to know more about mysterious Boo Radley, she learns that innocent people are always getting hurt or destroyed by the evils. "'Remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'" That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. "Your father's right," she said. "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us.
- Word count: 922
Rather than let his son be taken to an industrial school after causing trouble in Maycomb, Mr. Radley (Boo's father) took him home. Mr. Radley regarded this as a disgrace and Boo wasn't seen again for fifteen years. During that time many rumours spread around Maycomb, many of which were fabricated by Miss Stephanie Crawford and the rest by the black people of Maycomb .These rumours are what compelled Boo to stay in his house. The prejudice and xenophobia of Maycomb's citizens prepares the reader for the injustice in Tom Robinsons trial. Boo Radley is also used as an example of how religion can be used as a weapon, this is shown in the line "but sometimes
- Word count: 710
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
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses mockingbirds to symbolize how the innocent are sometimes found at fault or harmed by others. Three examples of mockingbirds include Arthur Boo Radley and Tom Robinson in the novel, and Muslims in real
Tom Robinson actually helped Mayella Ewell with chores and never took advantage of her. Prejudice, a value that any member of the jury should have taken out of consideration before the trial, was the driving force behind the final verdict of the crime. Following his conviction, Tom Robinson was sent to prison and shot seventeen times during an attempt to escape. The primary cause of Tom's conviction and his death was the guilt of Mayella Ewell. After tempting Tom Robinson, she wanted to destroy the evidence of her offense by putting him away from her.
- Word count: 628
Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch, Scout's brother, has a close relationship with Scout throughout the book. Scout and Jem live in Maycomb, Alabama with their father, Atticus Finch. In the little town there are many disputes about people and how they are different. For example, tragic events of the Tom Robinson case and the death of Mr. Bob Ewell taught Scout to more understanding. Scout became a matured, compassionate adult because of the experiences she had in Maycomb.
- Word count: 414
During the time Jem had spent with Mrs Dubose it is clear that both, him and Scout, have learnt many valuable lessons. At the beginning both characters needed to learn several life skills, such as; to learn how to have self control, to have tolerance, respect, courage and courtesy. Harper lee shows this by beginning to round off Jems character. One lesson that he learns early on is how to behave as a gentleman in the face of extreme provocation, in the form of Mrs Dubose.
- Word count: 818
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
Miss Caroline pats the palm of Scouts hand with a ruler and makes her stand in the corner until noon, as a sign of punishment. This is where Scout learns that school is different from what she may have expected it to be. Another important event that takes place during the school day is when Miss Caroline asks Scout to read the alphabet she has printed out onto the board. To her surprise, Scout, being a literate child is able to read.
- Word count: 615
In this essay I will be discussing what and how they learn about courage through this. Chapter 10 comprises one event which demonstrates courage. February approaches and a mad dog is found wandering down the main street of the neighbourhood. Atticus and the sheriff soon return home after Calpurnia warns the neighbourhood. It is decided that the dog must be shot, thus the sheriff asks Atticus to shoot the dog with his riffle, as he describes Atticus as "one shot Finch."
- Word count: 375
Why in spite of the evidence at the trial is Tom Robinson found guilty. What signs are there that Atticus has made some progress?
There was evidence that showed that the victim, Mayella was attacked. Mayella had several injuries on her body, including bruises on the right side of her face, and marks around her neck, suggesting strangulation. Even though there was no medical evidence that a rape had been committed, people ignored it and assumed it was true, they were not ready to acknowledge that a Negro would not be guilty. Atticus shows that he had made some progress with the evidence.
- Word count: 533
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
"They don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." Boo Radley is the prefect example of what Miss Maudie said about what a mockingbird is. The children tormented Boo and created horrific stories about him without ever knowing any facts or seeing him. But Boo was the one who secretly gave gifts to them at the tree, put a blanket around Scout when she was cold, sewed up Jem's pants when he was trying to see Boo and saved their lives. The structure of the story is reflective as Scout is looking back at her childhood and the depression era.
- Word count: 773
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
Even the family turn against Atticus, because they'd rather match in and follow the rest of the town than have justice. Aunt Alexandra talks of Atticus to Scout saying how "it's bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he's turned out a nigger lover we'll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again. He's ruinin' the family". However, Atticus uses all his courage to stand strong and follow what he believes is right. Even though the rest of the town see that what Atticus is doing is wrong, in actual fact he's the best role model that Scout and Jem could possibly have in their lives.
- Word count: 680
Essentially, the mockingbird mainly symbolises Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, both innocent and isolated from society. Mockingbirds themselves do not have their own songs; instead they are heard through other bird's calls - the Maycomb County saw Boo and Tom through prejudice, gossip and racism within the community. The mockingbird symbol is employed by Lee to emphasise that, at the period of time in which the novel is set, the innocent people in society - the black community - were isolated and also that it is a sin to harm an innocent: 'Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em.
- Word count: 774
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
To Kill a Mockingbird creative writing - Dill and I were so excited to go inside to watch Atticus, but Jem was right
The first floor was packed, the seats were all taken and there were people even piling in the hallway. After being overwhelmed about how many people were actually there, I became separated from Jem and Dill. But I was fine I wasn't scared at all, I figured if I went over to the wall by the stairwell Jem would start searching for me and find me soon enough. On my way over to the wall I had to walk through the Idler's club, so I made myself as discreet as possible while walking through them.
- Word count: 751
Miss Stephanie tells Jem who tells Scout who tells Dill, this is an example of the Radley's private life getting around the town and because it is not a big town it doesn't take long for everyone to learn the gossip. Maycomb is an old town and not many families have moved in or out of the town, so everybody knows each other very well. I think that because of this Maycomb has stereotyped its own families. We see an example of this on Scout's first day at school.
- Word count: 686