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To Kill a Mockingbird Background Info

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Julia Wald

on 7 February 2018

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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
The Great Depression (1930s)

The economic crisis began with the
stock market crash
in 1929 and continued through the 1930s.
This is recognized now as
As the
economy unraveled
banks closed
unemployment rates rose drastically
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
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
existed in the
justice system
African Americans were
not allowed
to be on juries.
African Americans were often
, and
with little cause.

Gender Bias in the 1930s
Women were seen as the
weaker gender
was not important for women.
Wealthy women were expected to
supervise staff
and using
was valued.
Men were not seen as

The South in the 1930s
economy was hit hard by the depression.
Many white southerners had a
idea of how life should be.
They felt threatened by
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.
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
precocious reader
Got in many playground fights.
Was very
, 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
, 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.
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
Harper was much more appealing to the people in Kansas than her flamboyant friend, Truman.
The book was published in 1966, and a
developed between the friends.

Work on In Cold Blood

After the massive
To Kill a Mockingbird
, Harper lived a very
Harper has won many honorary awards and degrees, but
to make any speeches.

Later Years
To Kill a Mockingbird remained the only published novel from Harper Lee, until 2015.
This second book,
Go Set a Watchman,
reads like a sequel to TKAM, but it was actually written beforehand.
It is widely known that Lee never intended to publish another book, so many see this book's publishing as under questionable circumstances.
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's Legacy
In June 1966, she was appointed to the


of the Arts
by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
On November 5, 2007, Lee was presented with the
Presidential Medal of Freedom
by George W. Bush.

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

Look for many symbols throughout the novel - especially symbolic animals
- 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
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

of the 1950s."
Full transcript