Kudos to To Kill a Mockingbird!
- Pulitzer Prize Winner in 1961
- Chicago Reads choice in 2001
- Academy Award winning movie (which we will watch)
Yeah, so? Why should we read this novel?
- It has universal and relevant themes: Love, courage, honor, justice, loss of innocence, racism, child neglect, poverty, loneliness, and more. It’s a book about how prejudice can keep people from realizing the truth and from acting kindly and honorably towards one another, something that is as true about people today as it was when Harper Lee wrote the book.
- It has interesting and sometimes funny characters: Atticus is a father everyone can love. Calpurnia is a wise mother-figure for Scout and Jem.Scout is smart, funny, feisty. Her friend Dill is funny and smart, but sad, too. Then there is crazy Mrs. Dubose, demanding Aunt Alexandra, and the mysterious Boo Radley, one of the most iconic characters in literature.
- Harper Lee’s only book continues to engage readers of all ages with its beautiful prose, inspiring speeches, and memorable lines. 2010 was the novel’s 50th anniversary and a big celebration was held in Monroeville, AL (link is to a map to show location of the author’s home town).
- Sheboygan Falls students often cite this book as their favorite (from all the books they read in high school).
- This is a novel that can take you on a historic journey. You can learn a lot from it, if you are open to that option.
Exceptionally Helpful Websites:
To Kill a Mockingbird Student Survival Guide–you’ll find summaries here as well as definitions for difficult vocabulary, explanations of idioms (figures of speech) and allusions (references to historical, cultural or literary events). You ought to check it out. You might even link to it from your blog. Study tip: keep this page open on your screen as you read. When you need it, it will be there for you right away.
List of characters and descriptions–The Shoomp site has a lot more there as well.
This image is from the movie and shows Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) with Scout (Mary Badham). Scout has been having a hard time understanding her teacher, Miss Caroline, so Atticus talks to her. He tells her that she must learn to put herself in Miss Caroline’s place. He says,
|“First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. 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” (Chapter 3).|
Harper Lee based the people and events in To Kill a Mockingbird, in part, on her own experiences in Monroeville, AL, where her father was a lawyer. The book was published in 1960, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, so it is fitting that Lee’s primary theme is the injustice of prejudice and racism. However, her characters live in a Jim Crow South in the 1930s. Her Maycomb residents must also endure economic hardships due to the Great Depression (which began in 1929). Learn more about the historical context of the novel.
Scout says that Maycomb had recently been told that they had nothing to fear but fear itself, which is a paraphrase of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous line from his inagural addresss: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He intended his words to give courage to the citizens of the United States. But we know that fear is a powerful motivator and fear can drive people to be both kind and cruel. Characters in the novel are full of fear: fear of poverty, fear of the unknown, fear of lonliness, even fear of others.
More: (If you have questions, email me and I’ll put them and the answers here).
- What’s a scuppernong? It’s a type of grape, also called a muscadine. (Chapter 5)