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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.

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  1. One Justice in To Kill A Mockingbird

    but chooses to uphold the law before his own personal prejudices. Most important to the three children is Atticus Finch, who as a father has raised Jem and Scout on his own principle of justice, that "in our courts all men are created equal" (Lee, 156). Like Atticus, this side of the conflict "believe firmly in the integrity of [the] courts" (Lee, 205) to fulfill society's obligations of justice. Until Jem, Dill and Scout are exposed to the other opinionated side of this silent battle, all three find no gaps in their personal perceptions of justice.

    • Word count: 822
  2. In what ways would it be fair to say that Mayella Ewell was as much a victim of Maycomb society as Tom Robinson?

    Soon Mayella had found someone else to help her. When she finds that Tom Robinson doesn't take her money I think she jumps on this wagon and starts to take advantage of him. As he does all these helpful jobs for Mayella it seems to dawn that this was the closest she would have for a friend. Mayella faced a hard time with her mother's death and her fathers drinking.

    • Word count: 570
  3. How does a rich range of characters in To Kill A Mockingbird help Harper Lee create a vivid picture of small town America

    Aunt Alexandria occupies herself with the image that the Finch's have in Maycomb. She is anxious with Atticus' relaxed style of parenting and wants to raise the children "properly". She criticised Atticus for letting Scout and Jem run "wild" and when she moves in with them, she urges Scout to follow her example. However Scout is more boyish and doesn't take well to what Aunt Alexandria encourages her to do. She tries to make Scout wear dresses, teach her the right etiquettes of the south and be more ladylike, polite and dignified. Miss Maudie Atkinson, on the other hand, is the opposite of Aunt Alexandra.

    • Word count: 915

    Bob Ewell, on the other hand, neglects his children. He spends his main source of income, welfare, buying alcohol for himself. His children are unhygienic and unhealthy, and basically take care of themselves. He doesn't realize the importance of school, and he doesn't allow his children to go to school. The following quotation on page 183 proves this: "The jury learned the following things: their relief check was far from enough to feed the family, and there was strong suspicion that Papa drank it up anyway-he sometimes went off in the swamp for days and came home sick; the weather

    • Word count: 1081
  5. Fathers in To Kill a Mockingbird

    he thought it was embarrassing for a "Radley" to go there; even though the other kids who attended there got a very good education. Later on he forbids his son to be permitted into any mental hospital as he believed his son did not need to go and it would be shameful to the Radley name if he lets his son go to an asylum. Harper Lee presents Mr Radley as a very old fashioned type of father and is presented as a very bad father even though he might not believe he is.

    • Word count: 762
  6. to kill a mocking bird

    At the beginning of the book Scout starts school and she has problems with it because she can already read and her teacher doesn't like that so she tells her that she is reading wrong. She doesn't like this because she loved to read with her father Atticus. After her first day she decides she doesn't want to go to school but Atticus compromises with her and they decided that she has to go to school and in return Atticus will keep reading to her.

    • Word count: 743
  7. Free essay

    How does Lee convey her ideas on bravery in To Kill a Mockinbird?

    She put the kids inside and warned the neighbors. She got done what needed to be done. In a time of somewhat chaos, you need someone like that. Jem is a brave character in many ways. When people talked about Atticus he ignored them and went on. He dealt with Mrs. Dubose differently though. He cut the tops of her flowers off. Doing that to a lady who hides a gun under her layers of shawls is brave but not very intelligent. Dealing with his punishment is the bravest thing Jem did in Part 1.

    • Word count: 766
  8. What do you learn from "To Kill a Mockingbird" about the treatment of black people in the southern states of America in the 1930s?

    In Chapt 12, Lula is incensed that Calpurnia is bringing Scout and Jem, white children, to the black church , "I wants to know why you bringin' white chillum to n****r church". Calpurnia points out to her that they are worshipping the "same God", and Jem realises their ways are not that much different "He's just like our preacher". Dolphus Raymond, a white man who dared to have a relationship with a black woman, and so have mixed-race children, is rejected by both sides of society, and fits in nowhere.

    • Word count: 1122
  9. To Kill A Mockingbird Imagery and Symbolism

    We haven't done anything in church in years." Chapter 12 (pg 129) She doesn't mind at all about going to black people's church, she just wants to go with Cal. During the court case she sits with the black people; "The coloured balcony ran along three walls of the court room like a second- storey veranda, and from it we could see everything." Chapter 16 (pg 181) This shows that even though the society of Maycomb is r****t she is determined not to be.

    • Word count: 7630
  10. Is Atticus Finch a Good Father and Role Model in the Novel To Kill a Mockingbird

    By this quote, you could realise that Calpurnia was literate, consequently could get a good job e.g. as a teacher, but she is a servant for Atticus. Atticus treats her as well as any other human being, or even as if she was in the family, because he knows she cannot get a different job due to her being black. Atticus is one of the few people in Maycomb who is not prejudice. He does his job well as he is not afraid to stand up against what the society like.

    • Word count: 583
  11. How Does Harper Lee use Irony and Humour in TKAM?

    there was a long jagged scar that ran across his face... his eyes popped... he drooled most of the time.' This is humorous as it is a very childish description of something or someone, and terms like these are most commonly used to describe the evil characters in stories, or monsters, not innocent people. The fact that Scout thinks this description is 'reasonable' is also very funny as it shows how gullible she can be, how much she admires Jem and accepts almost everything he says, no matter how ridiculous, to be valid and true.

    • Word count: 713
  12. Atticus tells the children that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Consider the range of characters that are guilty of this sin. Why are their actions viewed from the perspective of children?

    The children, especially Scout, have already judged the Ewell's: 'The boy stood up. He was the filthiest human I had ever seen. His neck was dark grey, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his finger nails were black deep into the quick.' This is Scout's description of Burris Ewell, Mayella's brother. Mr Cunningham is part of lynch mob from the outskirts of town. At the Maycomb town jail he intended to commit the crime of killing a mockingbird; however, he was confronted by Atticus and Scout.

    • Word count: 529
  13. To Kill a Mockingbird. Discuss the ways in which the whites give the coloured folk h**l in the novel.

    For instance, Tom Robinson's plight. The Ewells accused Tom of r**e, when all he intended to do was help Mayella with an 'old door'. When Tom was in the house, she 'jumped on' him, but her father saw this, and subsequently brought the case to court and charged Tom with r**e. However, Tom was evidently innocent as Atticus shows how the wounds on Mayella's face were created by a man with a strong left hand, whilst Tom's left hand 'hung dead at his side'. Hence, in this respect, the Ewells give Tom 'h**l', by making a false accusation and threatening his life, for the penalty for r**e was death.

    • Word count: 1028
  14. Analysis - To Kill A Mockingbird

    When Scout is reprimanded by her school teacher for learning how to read from her father, and she comes home and vents out her feelings in front of her father, Atticus does not berate her but infact sits down and explains the situation at hand to her. He asks her to not only see things from her perspective but to put herself in another persons shoes and view things from their eyes. This is elucidated in the line "until you climb into his skin and walk around in it".

    • Word count: 626
  15. To Kill a Mockingbird Hero

    He is the hero because he dares to challenge the rampant r****m that dwells in his hometown. At the end of the trial, he says, "You know the truth, and the truth is this: some n*****s lie, some n*****s are immoral, some n***o men are not to be trusted around women - black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men" (204). This is part of Atticus' closing statement to the jury, and also the part where he shows his courage and bravery by defending Tom Robinson.

    • Word count: 608
  16. Character Sketch of Atticus Finch

    His calm side was revealed when he told Scout not to worry because there will be bigger things to face. Atticus revealed his intelligent side when he was defending Tom Robinson during the trial. He also revealed his secret talent of having the most accurate shot in Maycomb County. Yet he remained to hide his secret talent so he can give an example to his children that courage is not about shooting dogs, rather it is the will to do something nice that triggers the motivation.

    • Word count: 721
  17. What do you think Lee has to say about being a father in To Kill a Mockingbird?

    He has tried to protect them from all of the different prejudices that are around in Maycomb but this becomes harder throughout the book. Although most people in Maycomb are quite r****t and refer to black people as 'n*****s' Atticus believes that everyone is equal and should be treated fairly. He seems a kind and loving father and he never seems to loose his temper with his children even when they misbehave. He also has a very calm disposition and is very much respected by the community.

    • Word count: 673
  18. Multiple meanings of To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

    Mockingbirds sing beautiful melodies that fill the neighbourhood. Mockingbirds commit no harm to anyone or anything, therefore it is only sensible that we do not harm the mockingbird in any way, just like the mockingbird has done us no harm. That is why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. In Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird there are many references to the mockingbird. Harper Lee also makes some references to the people who are symbols of the mockingbird as they are like the mockingbird.

    • Word count: 1009
  19. Atticus as a father in to kill a mockingbird

    He does not hesitate to even include some technical details including that of r**e. He does not beat his children yet acts stern and firm on certain issues. For instance he insists that Jem reads to Ms.Dubose or obey Aunt Alexandra or Calpurnia. At the same time he does not impose his ideas and decisions on them rather explains and makes them realize and learn things they still need to . To help them inculcate the right values in his children he tries to implement and put into action the same ideas or morals he preaches.

    • Word count: 526
  20. Free essay

    To what extent do you agree that To Kill a Mockingbird can be described as a coming of age novel? Explain your ideas with detailed reference to the writers presentation of characters and inc

    In part one of the novel, we are introduced to both the children and the themes. The adults of Maycombe are judged by the children, their character is judged, and they can tell if is good or not. For example Mr Avery, he is a r****t character, and r****m is a major theme in the novel. The children judge him and laugh at him by making a snowman of him. This event is also an example of symbolism in the novel.

    • Word count: 910
  21. What is the importance of maycomb community

    The parenting skills and education given teaches prejudice whether between gender, race, of social status. Most families pre-judge each other, and develop gossip throughout the neighbourhood, 'Maycomb's usual disease'. This represents gossip like a plague or disease. It is contagious, infectious, and incurable. However, for some, Atticus teaches Jem and Scout to find their own opinion, and to be open minded. The community is so close everyone knows and wants to know the gossip, 'it was a melancholy little drama, woven from bits and scraps of neighbourhood legend'. This shows conjecture, which the society is so tight, that pieces of information spread so quickly, from little bits of gossip.

    • Word count: 1137
  22. robinson guilty

    Next on the stand was Miss Mayella Ewell. She was from the start very hostile to Mr Finch. Her account was incoherent and eventually ended up contradicting her fellow witnesses. On the whole the prosecution had a weak case as they didn't have any medical documentation to back their accounts which had 'holes' in them. Even though Mr Gilmer knew their case was weak but surely a warning sign in the court room where every one seemed to hate each other and the tension extreme. Mr Robinson was next on the stand and was calm and assured with an air of innocence.

    • Word count: 1091
  23. themes in to kill a mocking bird

    When Scout wishes to invite Walter Cunningham to dinner, we see that she has gained a new knowledge of acceptance. But Aunt Alex, a model of archaic Southern manners, doesn't believe an individual of Walter's standing should associate with them. She also di sagrees with the way Atticus sees Calpurnia as part of the family. Alex cannot accept the presence of an African-American woman that transcends servitude in her home. In the end, Scout and Jem have blossomed into young people more like their father.

    • Word count: 2012
  24. Hobsons choice-How did hobson lose control?

    Throughout the play Hobson is portrayed as a character who wants to be dominant, from as early as act one Hobson can be seen addressing his daughters so called "uppishness". "I'm talking now, and your listening....Girls grow bumptious, and must have someone to rule, but I tell you this, you'll none rule me." This shows that Hobson thinks he understands his daughters actions, and thinks that their actions are normal, but the reality is that his daughters are tired of Hobson's way's , and want Hobson to allow them some independence.

    • Word count: 577
  25. Essay courage-integrity

    It shows that everyone should have some sort of morals. Another example where Lee uses Scout to get a message across in the book is on page 35. Atticus says "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." He is explaining to Scout that she needs to think from the other person's point of view. This partly shows the reader how Atticus remains so calm and honest throughout the book - i.e.

    • Word count: 2050

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