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To Kill a Mockingbird Background Info

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by

Julia Wald

on 31 October 2016

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Transcript of To Kill a Mockingbird Background Info

To Kill a Mockingbird
Background Information
Setting of the Novel
Takes place in
Maycomb, Alabama
during
The Great Depression (1930s)

THE GREAT DEPRESSION
The economic crisis began with the
stock market crash
in 1929 and continued through the 1930s.
This is recognized now as
THE GREAT DEPRESSION
.
As the
economy unraveled
and
banks closed
,
unemployment rates rose drastically
and
wages fell 15%
.
The estimated number of
jobless Americans
in 1932 was
14 million (1/3 of the workforce)
, but could have been as high as
20 million
.

Meanwhile, the
Dust Bowl
was taking place in the middle of the country. Farmers and workers suffered greatly.
Although slavery was abolished in 1863,
African Americans were still denied many rights
.
Segregation
existed in schools, public bathrooms, buses and many other public places.
African Americans could not sit in the same sections as whites, they have separate facilities as well because of
Jim Crow Laws
.

Racial Tension and Discrimination of the Time
A great deal of
discrimination
existed in the
justice system
.
African Americans were
not allowed
to be on juries.
African Americans were often
arrested
,
tried
, and
convicted
with little cause.

Gender Bias in the 1930s
Women were seen as the
weaker gender
.
Education
was not important for women.
Wealthy women were expected to
supervise staff
Being
"lady-like"
and using
manners
was valued.
Men were not seen as
nurturing.

The South in the 1930s
Agricultural
economy was hit hard by the depression.
Many white southerners had a
romanticized
idea of how life should be.
They felt threatened by
change
and industrialization.

Little opportunity
for African Americans to advance themselves
.
Nearly half of all
African Americans
in the South
did not receive an education
past the 5th grade.
Racist groups like the
Ku Klux Klan
and the Black Shirts terrorized African Americans.
Lynching
was still a common practice.
Harper Lee Background and Biography
Born on April 28, 1926 in
Monroeville, Alabama
.
Real name is
Nelle Harper Lee
.
Father - Amasa Coleman Lee (practiced law and was on state legislature from 1926-1938)
Mother – Frances Cunningham Finch Lee

Where it all began…

Harper Lee at the Monroeville Courthouse

Youngest of four children.
Was a
tomboy
and
precocious reader
.
Got in many playground fights.
Was very
unruly
, and sometimes talked back to teachers.

Harper’s Childhood

Became good friends with her schoolmate and neighbor,
Truman Capote
.
Nelle protected Truman from childhood bullies.
The two
remained friends
through adulthood.


Harper Lee and Truman Capote

Truman Capote & Harper Lee

Harper’s Education

After graduating high school in
1944
, she went to the all-female
Huntington College
in Montgomery to study
English literature
.
Transferred to the
University of Alabama
at Tuscaloosa.
Wrote for and eventually became the editor of the school’s newspaper and humor magazine, the
Rammer Jammer
.

Began working on her
law degree
while completing her undergrad.
Decided that writing—not the law—was her true calling and eventually dropped out after a summer at
Oxford University
.

Aspiring Writer

In 1949, 23-year-old Harper moved to NYC.
Struggled for several years working various odd jobs.
While living in NYC, Harper re-united with Truman Capote.
Befriended Broadway composer Michael Martin Brown and his wife Joy.
In 1956, the Browns gave Harper a generous Christmas present—they gave her a gift of one year’s wages and a note that said “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas."

When she began writing, it was very episodic, and struggled to bring it all together.
One night, Harper Lee threw her manuscript out a window and she later had to collect it out of the snow.
The novel was completed by 1959, and published in 1960.
Received immediate success.
The following year, To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize and several other literary awards.

In 1962 the book was adapted for film.
Harper
visited the set often
and did many interviews.
The film had
eight Academy Award nominations
. The film won four, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch.

The Film Adaptation
Harper Lee on Set

Harper joined Truman Capote in Holcomb, Kansas to work on the nonfiction novel,
In Cold Blood
.
Harper helped with the interviews and
research
.
Harper was much more appealing to the people in Kansas than her flamboyant friend, Truman.
The book was published in 1966, and a
rift
developed between the friends.

Work on In Cold Blood

After the massive
publicity
from
To Kill a Mockingbird
, Harper lived a very
private
life.
To Kill a Mockingbird
remained the only published novel from Harper Lee, until 2015.
At one time, she began a second novel,
The Long Goodbye
, and a nonfiction book project about an Alabama serial killer, but both were never completed or published.

Later Years
During her later years, she lived in an assisted-living facility, and recently passed away on February 19, 2016.
In a 2011 interview with the Daily Telegraph,
Harper explained why she never wrote again
: "Two reasons: one, I wouldn't go through the pressure and publicity I went through with
To Kill a Mockingbird
for any amount of money. Second,
I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again
.”

Harper Lee Now
In June 1966, she was appointed to the
National

Council

of the Arts
by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Harper has won many honorary awards and degrees, but
declines
to make any speeches.
On November 5, 2007, Lee was presented with the
Presidential Medal of Freedom
by George W. Bush.

LITERARY DEVICES IN TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Point of View
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the novel
The story is told from the perspective of a child who is approx 6 years old when the story begins

Symbolism
Look for many symbols throughout the novel - especially symbolic animals
Motifs
Motifs
- recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that help develop the themes

ex: small town life
old fashioned values
gothic details

Most Recently...
It was announced on February 3, 2015, (fifty-five years after To Kill a Mockingbird), that Harper Lee is publishing a second book,
Go Set a Watchman
.

Lee completed this novel in the 1950s and then set aside in favor of Mockingbird. It follows Scout, the little girl of "Mockingbird," as an adult. The manuscript was rediscovered last year.

A statement from the publisher: "Reading in many ways like a
sequel
to Harper Lee's classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter's relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the
racial

tensions
of the 1950s."
Full transcript