" To Kill A MOcking Bird " by Harper Lee
The reader is introduced to the narrator, Scout, who describes her family's history and her town, Maycomb. She and her brother, Jem, are also introduced to Dill, and the children share stories and fantasies about the mystery man next door.
The first day of school does not go well for Scout.
Scout learns a lesson in manners when Walter Cunningham comes to lunch and a lesson in compromise from Atticus.
Scout and Jem find some mysterious presents in the knothole of an old tree on the Radley place.
The children's fascination with Boo Radley continues.
Jem, Dill, and Scout venture out one night to try to see into Boo Radley's back window -- an adventure that leads to frightening results, especially for Jem.
As the summer comes to a close, Scout and Jem find more presents in the Radley tree, but their bounty is suddenly cut off by Mr. Radley.
Winter comes quickly, bringing a rare snowstorm to Maycomb. Miss Maudie's house is ruined in a fire, and Scout has a rare encounter with Bo Radley without even knowing it.
Scout runs into trouble with both a classmate and a cousin when the two boys taunt her about her father, whom they call a "nigger lover." Atticus explains to Scout that he will be defending a black man named Tom Robinson.
Scout discovers that her father, whom she previously thought too old to do anything, does possess some talents.
Jem and Scout learn more about their neighbor Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose.
With Atticus out of town, Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to her church. They also learn more information about Tom Robinson.
Aunt Alexandra comes to stay with Atticus and the children.
After a tough evening fighting with both Aunt Alexandra and Jem, Scout is surprised to find the runaway Dill hiding under her bed.
As Tom Robinson's trial approaches, Atticus worries about the safety of his client -- a fear which proves to be justified.
Tom Robinson's trial begins.
Heck Tate and Mr. Ewell take the stand in Tom Robinson's trial.
Mayella Ewell takes the stand.
Tom Robinson takes the stand.
As they take a break from the trial, Scout and Dill get to know Dolphus Raymond better. Afterwards, they listen to Atticus's closing statements in the trial.
The verdict is announced in Tom's case.
The children, as well as other members of the community, discuss and react to the verdict.
Atticus and the children discuss the trial, Scout and Aunt Alexandra discuss Walter Cunningham, and Jem and Scout discuss class distinctions.
As Scout suffers through one of her Aunt's missionary circle affairs, Atticus returns home with the news that Tom Robinson has been killed.
The residents of Maycomb react to Tom's death.
After a classroom discussion of Adolf Hitler and his treatment of the Jews, Scout is struck by the hypocrisy of many of Maycomb's residents.
It would appear that Bob Ewell has not forgotten his grudge against some of Maycomb's citizens, including Judge Taylor and Helen Robinson. In the meantime, Scout prepares for a Hallowe'en night presentation at her school.
While returning home from the school pageant, Jem and Scout are attacked. Jem is hut and carried home by a stranger. Afterwards, a search of the area turns up Bob Ewell's dead body.
As Hack Tate and Atticus listen, Scout tells them what happened to her and Jem, ending by pointing to the man who had carried Jem home, Boo Radley.
Atticus is sure that it was Jem who stabbed Bob Ewell, but the sheriff tells Atticus that he intends to report that Ewell fell on his own knife. Atticus is sure that Ewell is trying to protect Jem, until it finally dawns on him that it was really someone else who killed Ewell.
Scout walks Boo Radley home, and then she reflects what it must be like to "stand in his shoes and walk around in them."
One of the major themes in To Kill a Mockingbird is prejudice and race relations in the South. Tom Robinson's case, in which he is charged with raping a white woman, is reminiscent of the case of the Scottsboro Boys, nine young African-Americans from Alabama who were charged with raping two white woman.
Why To Kill a Mockingbird?
Harper Lee's novel is the fourth most taught piece of literature in the United States (preceeded only by Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Huckleberry Finn) . The reasons for its popularity are obvious, including relevant themes and memorable characters. It is not, however, always the easiest book to teach. After all, in order to reveal those themes and recognize those characters, students must first make their way through a maze of words, allusions, and idioms that are not always recognizable, especially to students with limited English proficiency.
It is my hope that, by providing the annotations on this web page, students will have an easily accessed source to guide them through the mechanics of their reading. This should, hopefully, allow the classroom teacher more time to spend on discussion of other aspects of the novel.
Scout, a young girl in a quiet southern town, is about to experience the dramatic events that will affect the rest of her life. She and her brother Jem are being raised by their widower father Atticus and by a strong-minded housekeeper Calpurnia. Wide-eyed Scout is fascinated with the sensitively revealed people of her small town but, from the start, there's a rumble of thunder just under the calm surface of the life here. The black people of the cummunity have a special feeling about Scout's father and she doesn't know why. A few of her white friends are inexplicably hostile and Scout doesn't understand this either. Unpleasant things are shouted and the bewildered girl turns to her father. Atticus, a lawyer, explains that he's defending a young Negro wrongfully accused of a grave crime. Since this is causing such an upset, Scout wants to know why he's doing it. "Because if I didn't," her father replies, "I couldn't hold my head up."
from the Pacific Union College Dramatic Arts Society
To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the themes of misunderstanding and prejudice and this unit presents an opportunity for students to explore these concepts. Through gradual stages of change, Jem, Scout, and Dill realize that prejudgment of people is generally inaccurate.
As background preparation for reading the novel, students could do their own research about the Depression and the South, sharing their results.
This unit asks students to consider the following questions:
Why do good writers use symbolism in their writing?
Why is point of view an important technique to consider when writing?
Why is it difficult to persuade others to be just and courageous?
How do you support interpretations?
What makes a good piece persuasive writing?
The Mockingbird in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
Bojana Coklyat, Junior
It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. This line, spoken by Atticus, sums up the heart of this book. A mockingbird is a harmless bird that makes the world more pleasant with its song. In this novel, the mockingbird symbolizes Boo Radley and Tom Robinson, who were both peaceful people who never did any harm. To kill or harm them would be a sin.
Boo Radley went through his life never wanting to hurt a fly. He left gum, pennies, and wax dolls for Scout and Jem. He sewed Jem’s pants and left them on the fence so he could get them easily. Lastly, he saved Scout’s and Jem’s lives while risking his own. Boo was a fragile and gentle person. To send him off to jail to be executed would be like killing a mockingbird. Scout makes this point when she says to Atticus, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird.”
Chopping wood and doing whatever he could for Mayella Ewell was Tom Robinson’s only crime. The readers know Robinson is innocent, but they also know that he will be killed. Just like Boo Radley, Tom never harmed a soul. He risked his own safety by helping Mayella, and he did it because someone needed him. It was like a mockingbird being shot down when Robinson was accused of raping Mayella. In the moment that she accused him, he was a dead man.
Radley’s and Robinson’s parts in the story bring power to it. We see a misunderstood man return kindness for torment. Tom Robinson’s death was a defeat for justice and an insult to human nature. A mockingbird was shot and the readers get to see how much of a sin it was.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
Evelyn O’Melia, Junior
There is no doubt that Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a moving story of racial injustice in the South as well as a touching coming-of-age story. The courtroom scene demonstrates the depth of the bigotry in the area, stirring the consciences of all readers. Only the most obtuse of readers can fail to be affected by the adventures of Scout and Jem.
Unfortunately, the novel tells its story with too much clarity; midway through the novel, one forgets that the narrator is only a child. Scout sees the vents around her with far too much objectivity. As she analyzes the situations affecting her and her family, she seems too wise in the ways of the world, much like an adult in a child’s mind rather than an adult reminiscing about childhood.
For example, Scout’s revelation at the end of the novel. while she was standing on the Radley porch, was clearly beyond a child’s capability. Most adults would be too traumatized by the experience in the forest even to be lucid, let alone come to the deep philosophical epiphany that she reached about Boo. Instead of a character revelation from Scout, it comes across more as a direct message from the author, as if she had temporarily possessed Scout’s mind.
As good as the novel is, this uneven characterization happens throughout. Scout repeatedly discovers ideas that are more suited to someone much older. She would act like a normal child, break off into a philosophical reverie, then revert to her childhood persona once again. Harper Lee is so determined to get her point across that she interjects her points at the expense of character. She manages the job so skillfully that usually the reader is not aware of what is happening at first-read. It is only after putting the book away that the reader recognizes the deception, throwing all the considerations reached by the reader into doubt. Since the revelations of the character cannot be trusted, the unfortunate truth is that it becomes difficult to trust all else that Harper attempts to share
To Kill A Mockingbird--A Subtle Symbol Emphasized
Jason Caballero, Junior
The hundreds of pages in a typical novel come together to form an intricate web, whose many strands may be united in the minds of readers to form infinitely different interpretations. In many cases, authors represent their pet issues or most relevant commentaries with symbols or metaphors--although these can be overlooked too easily in a lengthy novel. For this reason, crucial story elements are often given central roles in climactic scenes: Mark Twain showed us Huckleberry Finn tossing away a torn letter of betrayal, as he decides "betwixt two things forever"; Ralph Ellison placed a Sambo doll in a scene where his main character finds a lost friend to be a traitor. The most incontestable and effective ways to emphasize a book's key metaphor, however, has been to place some reference to it in the work's title: J.D. Salinger brought our attention to Holden's career plans in Catcher in the Rye, and Harper Lee has incorporated the representation of her most meaningful statement in the title of her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. The many points of discussion which surface in Lee's book would certainly have partially submerged the parallel she created between Tom Robinson and the mockingbird.
In any classic novel such as To Kill A Mockingbird, the myriad differences in thinking between readers allow for many different interpretations. The author of such a work, however, must constantly make decisions concerning the best ways to fulfill his or her purpose in writing; Harper Lee decided that the symbol of the mockingbird was not displayed prominently enough, and so made it the crux of her novel rather than one of its neglectable elements. With its seemingly unsuited title, Lee's book keeps readers waiting for the moment when a mockingbird pops up--and shows what the author truly wanted her audiences to find.
When Jem and Scout Finch receive their first, longed-for air rifles, their instinctive desire to shoot birds is taken for granted. Their father refuses to teach them to shoot, but warns them that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird--the only time his children heard him call something a sin, reflecting how strongly he, and Lee, feel about this. After this order that they avoid their natural inclination towards shooting the colorless, brown mockingbird, Atticus tells his children that they may shoot as many blue jays as they like. These orders were certainly in opposition to the fickle logic of a child's mind. Blue jays are colorful birds, with black crests atop their heads and vibrant patterns on their wings. By contrast, mockingbirds sport drab, brown and black feathers, and are much more likely to attract the aggression of marksmen looking for deserving targets. However, the simplistic, unlearned minds of children do not easily recognize any criteria beyond the superficial, such as the visual appeal of a bird. Similarly, the jurymen in the novel's central episode convicted Tom Robinson based on some warped principles, with little but the delusive, shallow logic of skin color to guide them.
Lee crafted the novel as a story of injustice: injustice to a decent black man and his family, injustice to a lawyer and his family. By making the mockingbird image dominant in her work, Lee avoided the precedence of a Thanksgiving ball, or a Christmas at Aunt Alexandra's, over her racial commentary. To Kill A Mockingbird's readers must side with Tom Robinson, as the novel leaves no doubt of the injustice served him. There is much correlation between the would-be targets for Jem and Scout's bird shot, and Bob Ewell's scapegoat. Robinson, and mockingbirds, are chosen as targets by people too shallow and ignorant to recognize their true worth, and instead judge them less because of their feather or skin color. Miss Maudie told Scout, "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs." The Ewells certainly spent much time in people's "corncribs"; they collected welfare, hunted out of season, and generally benefited from much generosity--something that would have almost certainly been lacking had they been black. Tom Robinson, on the other hand, was a hard worker, a charitable person, and provided for himself.
However, just as children with new air rifles would be likely to overlook pesky, but vibrant, blue jays, and instead shoot innocuous, but relatively homely, mockingbirds, the juries of the 1930's would unjustly convict a black man, with the word of an untrustworthy white man as its only proof. The book's trial, and its results, can stir thoughts of much more than just criminal court, and these are exactly the thoughts Lee wanted us to have. She made sure of this when she chose her title.
" END -- " To Kill A Mocking Bird