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To kill a mockingbird
Transcript of To kill a mockingbird
by Harper Lee
An Introduction to the Novel
Harper's Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird highlights instances of heroism and courage in a small Alabama town riddled with the poverty and racial tensions of the South in 1935.
She explores the concept of man's cruelty to man by using the child narrator, Scout, to tell the story through innocent eyes.
Not only is the book set during the Great Depression, it is also set during a time where racism sparked the mistreatment of African Americans who were considered "second class citizens."
Many links are made to the social and historical context of the time, with subtle references to the Stock Market Crash, the Jim Crow Laws, and the Scottsboro Trials.
The South and the ‘Dust Bowl’
People bought stocks on margins (a little bit like a deposit - If a stock was $100 a person could pay $10 now and the rest later when the stock rose)
The stocks fell, meaning that the person now had less than $100 and no money to pay back the difference
People panicked about their money and investors tried to sell their stocks
This lead to a huge decline in stocks, which became worthless
People who bought on “margins” now could not pay and investors were average people that were now broke
The Stock Market
Crops turned to dust = No food to be sent out
Fields blown away
South in state of emergency
Dust Bowl was the #1 weather crisis of the 20th Century
Some families were forced to relocate because they had no money.
Farmers were already feeling the effects
Prices of crops went down
Many farms foreclosed
People could not afford luxuries
Factories shut down
Businesses went out
Banks could not pay out money
People could not pay their taxes
Schools shut down due to lack of funds
Many families became homeless and had to live in shanties
Herbert Hoover was president at the start of The Great Depression
Philosophy: We’ll make it!
What He Did: Nothing
The poor were looking for help and no ideas on how to correct or help were coming
People didn’t really have the money they were spending
The U.S. was a major credit loaner to other nations in need
Many of these nations could not pay the money back
Why was this bad?
The 1920's was a time of indulgence. After WW1, People wanted to have a new lifestyle - one of extravagance and excess. It was a time marked by dancing, drinking, flappers and gamboling.
There was a new concept of “credit”. People were buying:
The Roaring 20’s
Stock market crashed on 29th October, 1929
People didn‘t realize the effect the crash would have
There was no money to replenish what was borrowed
Businesses failed, factories closed
People were out of work
Even people with money suffered because nothing was being produced for sale.
Poor people lost their homes, were forced to “live off the land.”
The Great Depression
Some families were forced to live in shanty towns
A grouping of shacks and tents in vacant lots
They were referred to as “Hoovervilles” because of President Hoover’s lack of help during the depression.
How did it all Start?
It all began in the
Who let this happen?
What About the people?
and the poverty and hardship continued...
A drought in the South lead to huge dust storms that destroyed crops. The South became known as 'The Dust Bowl'.
The Setting of the Novel:
"To Kill a Mockingbird" is set in the 'Deep South' in a town called Maycomb County during the 1930's.
Much happened during this time - it was a time of racism, prejudice, and violence against African Americans.
It also was the time of the Depression and educational reform.
It was a time of ignorance and hardship.
America's 'Dark' History
During this time, racism, prejudice and discrimination was rife.
Although slavery had ended in 1864, ideas and cultural attitudes were slow to change.
The novel gives a 'face' to these ideologies and brings to life the dangers associated with cultural ignorance.
Women were considered “weak”
Women were generally not educated for occupations outside the home
In wealthy families, women were expected to oversee the servants and entertain guests
Men were not considered capable of nurturing children
Prejudice in ALL Forms
Poor, uneducated white people who lived on “relief “
Lowest social class, even below the poor blacks
Prejudiced against black people - they often felt the need to “put down” blacks in order to elevate themselves
The Ewell's are examples of this group
Words of wisdom:
The mockingbird is a symbol for people
who are 'good' - Tom and Boo. The lesson
teaches us not to marginalise or punish
those who don't harm others. Basically, Lee
is trying to warn her readers against the
persecution of innocents in our society (the
Women given the vote in 1920
Juries were MALE and WHITE
“Fair trial” did not include acceptance of a black man’s word against a white man’s
Jim Crow Laws
Recovering from the Great Depression
The Jim Crow Laws
After the American Civil War most states in the South passed anti-African American legislation. These became known as Jim Crow laws.
These laws included segregation in…
Some states forbade inter-racial marriage
These laws were instituted in 1896 and were not abolished till the late 1950’s (even then still not completely)
Started on a train bound for Memphis
9 young African-American men (13-20) were accused of raping 2 white girls in 1931
Several white men boarded and picked a fight with the black men
The white men were forced off train by the 12 black men. The white men reported that the black men had raped two white girls on the train to authorities
They were immediately arrested and tried in front of an all-white jury.
Immediately sentenced to death
Trials went on for nearly 15 years before all the men were dismissed
The trials caused a huge uproar amongst the African American Community
Wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960
Based the story on her life growing up in Monroeville, Alabama
It was the only novel she ever wrote
In 1962 the novel was turned into a film starring Gregory Peck. It received a humanitarian award and several Academy Award nominations
Reading the Novel...
Setting is all important –be aware of the “where” and “when” as you begin. You must remember to read the story within it’s social context.
Point of View – the novel is shaped by the voice of a young girl who sees the story from a position of naive acceptance
“Goodness vs. Ignorance (Evil)” is an important theme.
The discourse of “childhood innocence” is the primary vehicle used to tell the story.
Scout represents the author:
however, the novel is not strictly
Point of view...
The story is told from the perspective of 10-year old Scout. The novel begins as an 'adult Scout' reflects back on events from her childhood.
By doing this, Lee foregrounds the tragedy of the novel - the events are made worse because they are told through an innocent person's eyes.
The Characters that you will meet...
Atticus Finch is one of the most respected and admired characters from 20th Century literature.
He is honest, loyal and a realist. He is a man of the highest morals and treats others equally, without judgement or discrimination.
Miss Maudie Atkinson describes Atticus as being the “same in the courtroom as he is on the public streets”, showing his ability to be fair and diplomatic in all that he does.
He accepts people on their own merit and one of his best attributes is his tolerance of others.
He accepts that Scout is a tomboy and never tries to change or mould her – for the time, this would have been highly controversial.
Tom is a respectable, humble, kind Negro whom Atticus is defending against the charge that he raped Mayella Ewell, daughter of Bob Ewell.
Atticus knows he will lose because Tom is black, but he also knows that Tom is innocent and that he must defend him.
Tom was only trying to help Mayella because no one else would, but she made advances that he refused and her father saw them. She claimed that Tom raped her and beat her, but there was no way he could have done it. All of her bruises were on the right side of her face, but Tom’s left hand was a withered and useless appendage he’d caught in a cotton gin as a child.
Tom is a 'mockingbird' - he is a good, innocent person who is persecuted for the colour of his skin.
His trial is the turning point of the story and becomes the catalyst for many character transformations - primarily Jem's.
Scout is an innocent, good-hearted five-year-old child who has no experience with the evils of the world.
As the novel progresses, Scout has her first contact with evil in the form of racial prejudice, and the basic development of her character is governed by the question of whether she will emerge from that contact with her conscience and optimism intact or whether she will be bruised, hurt, or destroyed like Boo Radley and Tom Robinson.
Scout learns that though humanity has a great capacity for evil, it also has a great capacity for good.
Though she is still a child at the end of the book, Scout’s perspective on life develops from that of an innocent child into that of a near grown-up.
Jeremy "Jem" Finch
Jem is Scout's older brother - at the beginning of the novel, he is a typical boy. He teases Scout, plays pranks on Boo, occasionally tries to challenge authority.
He is heavily affected by Tom's trial.
He becomes disillusioned when he sees that justic does not always prevail.
He models Atticus' attitudes and 'grows up' quickly, learning life lessons about courage, justice and acceptance.
He saves Scout at the end of the novel.
The Mockingbird Symbol
A didactic tale...
So what is the book about?
In a nutshell, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is a coming of age story about growing up a loosing our childhood innocence.
Presented to us as a desirable human quality.
Many facets of courage are shown:
The physical courage of Atticus facing the Cunningham gang and the mad dog
The spiritual courage of Mrs Dubose
The cheerfulness with which Miss Maudie Atkinson accepts the loss of her house through fire
The courage of Atticus to defend Tom despite the opposition he experiences.
Courage involves things like fighting with your head rather than with your fists and living with your own conscience.
"It's when you know you're licked before you begin," says Atticus, "but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what".
Good V's Evil
The most important theme is the moral nature of human beings—that is, whether people are essentially good or essentially evil.
The novel explores this through Scout and Jem - they transform from a perspective of childhood innocence (they don't think people are evil) to a more adult perspective (evil does exist).
Good and Evil is also shown through the comparison of prejudice, hatred, intolerance and ignorance with positive values such as acceptance, tolerance, justice and honesty.
Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are the symbols of 'good', along with Atticus, however they are not prepared for the evil that they encounter, and, as a result, they are destroyed.
Scout retains a more realistic and optimistic view of life - she sees both good and bad in others.
Atticus is the moral voice of the novel.
He understands that most people have both good and bad qualities - we need to appreciate the good and understand the bad qualities.
He models everything that is good. His foil, Bob Ewell, represents everything that is evil.
Justice V's Injustice
Justice versus injustice is a key theme in the text - linked to good and evil
Shown predominately through Tom Robinson's trial and the injustice of the verdict
Atticus is Lee's model of justice and equality
Black v's white - Injustice and racial discrimination
Lee reinforces her message of the tragedy of injustice within society through Tom's death - he becomes the ultimate victim. With Bob's death however, she shows that it is never too late for justice to occur.
In its most basic form, the novel is a coming of age novel. It is focused on Scout's experiences as she grows up and matures.
The theme of identity is explored throughout the text - not only through Scout but also though the negative social issues explored (injustice, prejudice, ignorance) - Lee shows her audience that these can dictate or shape a persons view of themselves or their identity.
By Scout becoming a product of her father, Lee is trying to highlight the importance of moral education and positive role modeling as a way of reversing years of social ignorance and prejudice.
Throughout her journey, Scout encounters many challenges, each growing in seriousness as she gets older - the first half of the novel is about her being a child; however, the last half is about how she deals with very adult issues.
Tolerance V's Intolerance