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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. The opening credits and first ten minutes of the film to kill a mockingbird.

    The mocking bird also represents Tom Robinson because he was destroyed by evilness but he was innocent. In the opening credits there is also a marble which explain the black and white people being united together because the marble was black and white around. There was a pocket watch which was ticking to show that time was running out for the racial segregation, and in other terms racisms was going to end in the future. On the first few minutes the child rubs the word to kill a mockingbird which means there is going to be death and the death will be death of innocence.

    • Word count: 859
  2. Consider Atticus' role as a parent in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Is he a good father, in your opinion? You should refer closely to the text in your answer.

    I think Atticus a good father and that he does extremely well looking after his children, Jem and Scout. He seems, in the context of the 1930's, Deep South, an extremely modern parent! Atticus is an example to Jem and Scout, he doesn't physically punish them instead he punishes them in other ways for example sending Jem to read to Mrs.Dubose. This is a good way to punish him because not only is Jem not being hurt, but he is learning from Atticus that there's more than one way to punish people, and that a smack doesn't always solve the problem.

    • Word count: 1019
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird

    Others show these characteristics with there mental attitude. Examples of this is Atticus and the case of Tom Robinson, by the end of the trial Atticus is mentally worn-out and tired but he still uses hope and at the trial he hopes that they will believe him by saying 'in the name of God, do your duty'. Atticus still keeps hope and so does Mrs. Dubose even when she is dying. The novel itself is about one man, Atticus Finch who is trying to jolt his society out of its isolationist mentality and towards recognising that black people are in fact humans, and deserve equality and the same human rights as whites.

    • Word count: 2086
  4. Scout has 3 main guardians in her life; Atticus, Calpunia and Aunt Alexandra. How does each of these characters help her learn about the nature of society in which she lives?

    Maycomb has a good sense of community spirit, most of the time everyone would stick together in different situations. Most of the people living in Maycomb were very r****t and they never respected the n***o's, the n***o's were not part of the community and had to live separately. The white folk were very disrespectful to them and often gambled in their churches. They were also treated as slaves in many households and their laws were never justified. Other than r****m there were also many elements of the novel that show sexism, men thought they were the more important people in society than women.

    • Word count: 3101
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird

    Even though there are no actual mockingbirds included in the play there are many characters who I feel Harper Lee uses to symbolize the inner mockingbird in people. "To Kill a Mockingbird" tells the story of the citizens of Maycomb, Alabama from the eyes of a young girl named Scout who is the daughter of the local lawyer Atticus Finch. Lately the Finch family have had their named slandered about the community as Atticus has taken on the case of a n***o man named Tom Robinson and is actually trying to win his case.

    • Word count: 674
  6. What does the reader learn about the social setting in "To Kill A Mockingbird?"

    When Miss Maudie's house set ablaze everyone from the town turned up to give their support. The town has to be like this as it is isolated and a backwater town. Maycomb is a very slow and old fashioned town. Harper Lee writes the novel so the characters appear sleepy and never really do anything, this makes us suspect that something exciting is about to happen; 'a day was twenty-four hours long but seemed much longer,' this helps build up the tension for the climax. 'Nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.' For its residents, Maycomb is the world and there is little to do in Maycomb itself.

    • Word count: 2472
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

    However, it all becomes too much for Jem, when Mrs. Dubose starts throwing abuse at him, but about Atticus saying that "your father's no better than the n*****s and the trash he works for". This for Jem, was not only the final straw, but was the worst possible insult to him. In the novel Atticus is very influential to Jem and so fully respected and admired by him. This insult painfully hurts Jem and to get even, he decides to kill all of Mrs.

    • Word count: 1571
  8. In Which Ways Does Harper Lee Use "Outsiders" In "To Kill A Mockingbird"?

    Although the War took place 70 years before the period in which the book is set it's still strong in their mind and making their beliefs very moral. The black people in America in the period when the book was set were very outcast and looked upon very differently from white people. The black people came to America because of the slave trade and were divided into the Southern states because of the issue of slavery. As time passed the Northerners became very unwilling to overlook what they felt to be the evil of slavery in the South.

    • Word count: 1619
  9. Comment on the Symbolism of the Mockingbird in this Novel

    We can look at the idea of a mockingbird as an innocent creature. The idea of hunting a mockingbird is irrelevant to the storyline; however, the mockingbird becomes a metaphor for the wrongness of harming innocent and vulnerable people. The main 'mockingbird' in this novel is Tom Robinson. Tom is black, which makes him lower in society, and this is his weakness. When he appears in court, there is no real evidence that he raped Mayella Ewell, however, he is still charged with the r**e because people in that society had a belief that black people weren't really human, therefore a white person was superior to a black person in court.

    • Word count: 779
  10. Scout's Maturation through the Evil in the World

    Instead, she listened to everything that the town said about black people. This quote shows that Scout was still rather immature and had a lot of growing to do. When the jury walks in from Tom"s trial, Scout says to herself, 'I saw something only a lawyer"s child could be expected to see, could be expected to watch for, and it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a shoulder, and pull the trigger but watching all the time knowing the gun was empty'"' (pg. 211). Scout is finally beginning to feel some compassion for Tom Robinson, a black person, after learning of the evil that has been done to him.

    • Word count: 1158
  11. To Kill a Mockingbird

    Maycomb is a very traditional and people's way of life is dictated by their history. In American history, black people were slaves and were treated with little respect. There is still a similar attitude in Maycomb and the white people put themselves above the blacks. The Finchs have a black maid named Calpurnia. Atticus treats her differently to the way the white people do and he considers her to be 'a faithful member of the family'. She is like a mother to the family.

    • Word count: 1309
  12. Gregory Peck's Portrayal of Atticus Finch

    I feel that Gregory Peck has portrayed Atticus perfectly, down to the detail of his hair and glasses. He has captured Atticus' modest side aswell as the formal, stricter side of him. The "Atticus was feeble he was nearly fifty" quote has much meaning to it, as it is depicted well in the novel and on screen. In my view everyone has a different picture of Atticus Finch and his ways. In my head no one could have done a better job and that is exactly how I imagine him to be.

    • Word count: 748
  13. How far do you think Harper Lee has effectively shown social class and family groups to be important at that time?

    The first and upper class consisted of white/Caucasians who were considered "rich" in the post-depression years. Characters who fit into this class were Atticus Finch, a well-off, highly respected lawyer and citizen in town, and Judge Taylor, the justice of Maycomb County and judge at the Robinson trial. Other character's who belonged to this upper class were Miss Maudie Atkinson, an open- minded, kind woman, and Miss Stephanie Crawford, the renowned gossip of the town. The second class in Maycomb County included the lower class, white workers, and primarily farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

    • Word count: 1202
  14. 'To Kill a Mockingbird' : Describe the importance of Calpurnia in the lives of the Finch family, and in the novel as a whole.

    You may think otherwise, but I couldn't have got along without her all these years. She's a faithful member of this family and you'll simply have to accept things the way they are", when Aunt Alexandra wanted to get rid of her. When Aunt Alexandra came to live with Atticus, Jem and Scout she told Atticus that she wanted to get rid of Calpurnia. This was because Aunt Alexandra was very proper and snobbish so she agreed with the people of Maycomb and the Southern attitudes about n*****s. Calpurnia is intelligent and is one of the few n*****s in Maycomb who can read and write.

    • Word count: 803
  15. Oliver Simpson 3rdJanuary 2004

    Dill has not followed his childhood dream to become a clown in a circus. Instead he has become a teacher, as he likes working with children because they are innocent and they don't have prejudiced views like adults. He is unmarried and is now living and working in Clanton in a fairly small school. I have become a lawyer now, after moving to Montgomery to study law. I was lucky to be granted this opportunity, as when Atticus studied law it was dominated by men with very few if any women attending college.

    • Word count: 1879
  16. In Harper Lees Novel r****m is described through the eyes of a nine-year old girl Scout, which still has not been affected by the disease that is overcoming the town.

    Throughout her novel, there are many examples of r****m and the opinion of the diseased population of the county. In the novel Judge Taylor's character is introduced, he is the judge of the court during Tom Robinson trial although he seems to be sleeping all the time; he is very wise and intelligent. Judge Taylor's character is introduced to be a neutral character in the novel he is neither biased nor prejudice to any certain race. "Did it ever strike you that Judge Taylor naming Atticus to defend that boy was no accident?

    • Word count: 1194
  17. Briefly describe the trial scene from The Crucible.

    Mr. Tate explains that Bob Ewell urged him to go to his house as "some n****r'd reaped his girl". Later on in the house, he found the girl lying on the floor, beaten up with bruises. The girl told him that it was Tom Robinson and so, arrested Tom. Atticus cross-examines the witness who admits that no doctor was summoned. Further questioning reveals that, Mayella's bruises were concentrated on the right side of the face. This piece of information is used by Atticus to prove the fact that, it is Bob who is guilty. Mr Tate is then asked to leave and Bob Ewell is called on. Mr. Gilmer questions him first. Bob is asked to testify the events.

    • Word count: 1711
  18. Tom Robinson's trial is in many ways the central part of 'To kill a mocking bird' Looking at life as Scout experiences it in Maycomb, discuss why a seemingly innocent man is condemned to death.

    They weren't allowed to vote because you had to be a land-owner to be able to. But no blacks could own land because they didn't have any money, and to get money you had to have a job and to have a job you had to have an education, so it was all a vicious circle. If the blacks where able to vote, then they could stand up and ask for the right to be educated but they couldn't vote, and so couldn't change anything. Everything the whites could do the blacks had to do separately or not at all.

    • Word count: 1941
  19. Scout's Journey While Growing Up (To Kill A Mockingbird)

    Chapter 13, pg. 127. One of the most important events in the story was the Tom Robinson case. In this case, a white man called Bob Ewell was accusing Tom, who is a black man, for r****g his daughter. As this trial unfolded itself, Scout noticed how badly Tom was treated in court and in jail because of the color of his skin. She also despised the way Bob Ewell's attorney was making Tom look ridiculous and humiliating him in front of everyone in court.

    • Word count: 1046
  20. Bravery, a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger of pain without showing fear, felling no fear. No fear is what Atticus Finch showed throughout the whole novel.

    That is one of the many parts in the novel Atticus shows his bravery. When Atticus was at the jail-protecting tom the white men that hat tome came and started to harass Atticus. They all Told him to move away from the jail door but Atticus replied to one of them who had told him to move away from the door " you can turn around and go home again, Walter" Atticus (151). That part shows an excellent act of bravery.

    • Word count: 763
  21. r****m SHOULD NOT EXIST IN SOCIETY - r****m in To Kill A Mockingbird

    r****m dooms the accused man Scout is unaware of the existence of r****m and prejudice. When a boy at school teases Scout about her father defending "n*****s" Scout fights him over it even though she doesn't know what it means. In the same way her cousin Francis quotes his grandmother " Grandma says... now he's turned into a n****r-lover we'll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb agin. He's ruining the family..."p83 Scout doesn't know what he means but beats him up anyway.

    • Word count: 1535
  22. A faint perception of life -

    In turn Adella is not the only one who gets affected in the small town. Since Adela holds the Strangeworth legacy, her family had done so much for the town that she feels that she owns the small town, Pleasant Street, her roses and everyone who lives in it. " My Grandfather built the first house on Pleasant Street...she sometimes found herself thinking that the town belonged to her." Lee 2 (Jackson 211) Adela believes that it is her responsibility to her citizens of the kind of evil that exists in her modest town, and that she will help her neighbors as her ancestors have done.

    • Word count: 1003
  23. SYMBOLISM IN To Kill a Mockingbird

    She understands Atticus' need to fight against the racial prejudices and believes in him absolutely. When her house gets burnt down, instead of moping about it, she is back on her feet the next day, restoring her house and her garden. She is thus a symbol of strength and integrity. Mrs. Dubose symbolizes the grit and determination of a woman, who though aware of the fact that she is going to die soon, wants to do so with all her wits about her. Her addiction to morphine is a negative factor and she attempts to overcome it appreciably.

    • Word count: 936
  24. I will present a critical analysis on the film 'To kill a Mockingbird' which is based on the award winning novel by Harper Lee.

    Firstly, the book was written during the period of the great depression, where paranoia swept the land and marginalisation was a common site. Many people like Harper lee would have mourned at the frequent sites of discrimination of the poor, religion, blacks and even the rich. However, the constant marginalisation of blacks would have driven some people crazy. The film produces a complex message of Harper Lee's feelings. Therefore, the great depression and repression of blacks were the main factors that would have influenced Harper lee and Horton Foots (the script writer)

    • Word count: 1214
  25. "To Kill A Mockingbird" - review

    Similarily, Scout and Jems trust for their father is a way in which Atticus' extent to which he is an admirable character is shown. As Scout is young, vulnerable and na�ve she is confused by incidents and opinions of adults. However Scout trusts her father and on many occasions, throughout the novel, turns to Atticus for advice or clarification. Another aspect of Atticus' parenting methods, which discusses the extent to which he is an admirable character, is his very much unconventional approach to parenting.

    • Word count: 1922

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