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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

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Set in the 1930's, Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" features four main families that are text book examples of the adversities within the moral and social ladder in the "tired old town" of Maycomb Alabama. These differences within their backgrounds has an effect on their use of language and the ways in which they interact with one another and their surrounding society. Harper Lee's clever use of language serves as a means of revealing the differences between families, creating atmosphere giving the reader a sense of authenticity and a way of enhancing and supporting key themes such as racial injustice and inequality. 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 relationships. The evidently troubled Ewell family "lived as guests of the county in prosperity as well as in the depths of a depression" as a result of the Wall Street crash in 1929. They are illustrated to be severely disadvantaged - mentally and physically- by their "congenital defects" and suffer at the hands of "the diseases indigenous to filthy surroundings" as established by Scout's humorous and ironic first person narrative. This morbid description of the Ewells allows the reader to sympathise with the family as they must live with their grim afflictions induced by poverty. ...read more.


It is only through Scout's six year old perspective that the reader understands that the Cunningham family "never took anything they can't pay back" demonstrating that they are proud and honest. This episode uses humour, but not to undermine Walter; it is used to create sympathy for him and allows the reader to warm to the Cunningham family in contrast to Ewells who are ridiculed by the older Scout's humorous narration when they are called "guests of Maycomb". It is crucial to note that it is not Walter who explains his position; he embraces his southern courtesy and defers naturally to the teacher and to the more middle class and articulate Scout. Despite this, it is also clear that they are not very well educated as Walter uses slang terms such as "pizened 'em" in contrast to Scout's more formal language. The Cunningham Southern courtesy is also highlighted in the molasses episode where it is made apparent that the Cunninghams have high moral, as Walter Cunningham (junior) speaks politely to Atticus calling him "sir". This effectively conveys that the family is close as they are following their father's example in the practice of high morals. Furthermore, Mr Cunningham is illustrated to be caring towards his family despite Scout's initial visualisation of him taking "no interest in his son". This is exhibited through the dialogue between Scout and Mr Cunningham and his actions which are depicted in the "lynch mob" episode. ...read more.


This defies all that the reader knows about the antisocial Radleys and raises the question, if Arthur Radley can break free from the chains which hold him down, is there really an excuse for Mayella not to do the same? In conclusion, the reader is given a mixed image of family relations within the "tired old town" of Maycomb. The first image the reader is given is that of Atticus and his close relationship with his family and how good morals can bring a family closer together. In juxtaposition, Lee displays the Ewells as a distant family as they are poorer than the Finches and have lower moral standards which are transferred from the father Bob Ewell to his children as seen when Burris insults his teacher. But, as Harper lee highlights, money is not everything when it comes to family relationships as shown by the Cunninghams who despite being poor uphold high moral values and follow in their father's example of being kind and honest. The final image is that of neglect and isolation which illustrated through the Radley family who display the devastating effects of bad parenting (seen through Boo Radley). Through out the novel, Lee makes it clear that the Finches are bench mark for the rest of Maycomb and portray a perfect family relationship. The author suggests that if all families were like the Finches and the Cunninghams in the practice of high morals, the surrounding society would be far more stable than a society with families who take no interest in one another and sponge "off of the welfare system". ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

5 star(s)

An excellent essay in many ways most noticeably in the mature and reflective analysis throughout.
The essay is fluently written with a wide vocabulary and uses quotes consistently.
However there are no topic sentences - despite this the essay remains focused on the question.
Thoughtful,perceptive and shows an excellent understanding of the novel.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 01/03/2012

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