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To Kill a Mockingbird

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Enda Conneely

on 18 December 2012

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Transcript of To Kill a Mockingbird

'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee Context Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, a sleepy small town similar in many ways to Maycomb, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird. Like Atticus Finch, the father of Scout, the narrator and protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s father was a lawyer. Among Lee’s childhood friends was the future novelist and essayist Truman Capote, from whom she drew inspiration for the character Dill. These personal details notwithstanding, Lee maintains that To Kill a Mockingbird was intended to portray not her own childhood home but rather a nonspecific Southern town. “People are people anywhere you put them,” she declared in a 1961 interview.


Yet the book’s setting and characters are not the only aspects of the story shaped by events that occurred during Lee’s childhood. In 1931, when Lee was five, nine young black men were accused of raping two white women near Scottsboro, Alabama. After a series of lengthy, highly publicized, and often bitter trials, five of the nine men were sentenced to long prison terms. Many prominent lawyers and other American citizens saw the sentences as spurious and motivated only by racial prejudice. It was also suspected that the women who had accused the men were lying, and in appeal after appeal, their claims became more dubious. There can be little doubt that the Scottsboro Case, as the trials of the nine men came to be called, served as a seed for the trial that stands at the heart of Lee’s novel.

Lee began To Kill a Mockingbird in the mid-1950s, after moving to New York to become a writer. She completed the novel in 1957 and published it, with revisions, in 1960, just before the peak of the American civil rights movement.

Critical response to To Kill a Mockingbird was mixed: a number of critics found the narrative voice of a nine-year-old girl unconvincing and called the novel overly moralistic. Nevertheless, in the racially charged atmosphere of the early 1960s, the book became an enormous popular success, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and selling over fifteen million copies. Two years after the book’s publication, an Academy Award–winning film version of the novel, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, was produced. Meanwhile, the author herself had retreated from the public eye: she avoided interviews, declined to write the screenplay for the film version, and published only a few short pieces after 1961. To Kill a Mockingbird remains her sole published novel. Lee eventually returned to Monroeville and continues to live there.

In 1993, Lee penned a brief foreword to her book. In it she asks that future editions of To Kill a Mockingbird be spared critical introductions. “Mockingbird,” she writes, “still says what it has to say; it has managed to survive the years without preamble.” Setting The novel is set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama between 1922-35. It is based on Harper's own town Monroeville, Alabama, in the American South. It is a time and place dominated by economic depression, racial segregation and prejudice against african Americans. Quotes:

1. Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop . . . [s]omehow it was hotter then . . . bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum. . . . There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself. Explainations

1.This quotation, from Chapter 1, is Scout’s introductory description of Maycomb. Scout emphasizes the slow pace, Alabama heat, and old-fashioned values of the town, in which men wear shirt collars, ladies use talcum powder, and the streets are not paved, turning to “red slop” in the rain. This description situates Maycomb in the reader’s mind as a sleepy Southern town; Scout even calls it “tired.” It also situates Scout with respect to the narrative: she writes of the time when she “first knew” Maycomb, indicating that she embarks upon this recollection of her childhood much later in life, as an adult. The description also provides important clues about the story’s chronological setting: in addition to now-outdated elements such as mule-driven Hoover carts and dirt roads, it also makes reference to the widespread poverty of the town, implying that Maycomb is in the midst of the Great Depression. 2.He was Maycomb County born and bred...Atticus was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in the town. 2. Shows the small town nature of Maycomb. Every body knows everybody else, and their business, or they are related. Being able to trace your family back a long time is important.

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/mocking/section1.rhtml Sparknotes Chapter Summaries Six yars old at beginning of novel
Narrator and protagonist of story. Looking back at the events of her childhood but allowing us to see them through the eyes of her six year old self. Allows to see events from the innocent naive perspective of a child.
Chapter 1
'Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom. People said he existed but Jem and I had never seen him.' Scout's childish fantasy about Boo Radley.
Scout has a general acceptance about the hierarchy of Maycomb's soceity and black people's position within that soceity,''There goes the meanest man God ever blew breath into,' muttered Calpurnia...We looked at her in surprise for Cal rarely comented on the ways of white people.'
Intelligent, funny and a tomboy. Has a combative streak (fights Walter Cunningham)
'Scout yonder there's been readin' ever since she was born.' - intelligence Character: Scout Ten years old at the beginning of novel.
Typical American boy - loves football and dares
More mature than Scout. Acts as her protector throughout. Jem Finch Atticus Finch Chapter 1
The importance of a family's history and its position in society is introduced in chapter 1
Prejudiced views and stories about the Radley family are also introduced, 'The Radley's, welcome anywhere in town, kept to themselves, a predilection unforgivable in Maycomb.'
The town gossip's and children's view of Boo Radley as a sinister monster is conveyed, 'Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom.'
The children's acceptance of black people's 2nd class status, if not their understanding of it, is also presented: ''There goes the meanest man God ever blew breath into,' murmured Calpurnia....We looked at her in surprise, for Calpurnia never commented on the ways of white people.' - they have simply accepted this as the norm.

Chapter 2
Scout's black and white view of the world and the hierarchy of Maycomb's society is conveyed: 'I thought I had been sufficiently clear. It was clear enough to the rest of us: Walter Cunningham was sitting there lying his head off. he didn't forget his lunch, he didn't have any.' She conveys the prejudiced view of most of the townspeople i.e. that the Cunninghams were dirt poor. Theme: Prejudice & Racism Chapter 3
The prejudiced view and accepted hierarchy of Maycomb is again portrayed through an incident with Burris Ewell in Scout's class, 'He's one of the Ewell's Mam...They come the first day every year and then leave'
Atticus tries to teach Scout an important moral lesson about looking at things from the point of view of other's in an effort to challenge her simplified view of the world, '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.' Atticus giving Scout the crucial piece of moral advice that governs her development for the rest of the novel.

Chapter 4
Further evidence of an acceptance of certain racist conventions, 'Calpurnia says that's just nigger talk.' Scout's proclamation about a local superstition shows us that 'nigger' is an acceptable term for many and also conveys the prejudiced view that black people are superstitious. Chapter 5
Atticus again tries to teach the children to empathize with Boo radley when he catches them playing a drama about his life, 'How would we like it if Atticus barged in on us without knocking, when we were in our rooms at night.' Chapter 7
We see the effect of Atticus's parenting and moral giudance on Jem. He is moved to tears when Mister Radley fills in the knot hole. We realise he has overcome his prjusdiced ideas of Boo and feels compassion for him as a fellow human being - he has crawled inside his skin. 'When we went into the house I saw that he was crying...' Chapter 8
Scout is forced to reassess her ideas of view when she realizes he came out and placed a blanket on her shoulders to keep her warm while she watched Miss Maudie's house burn. 'Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn't know it when he put the blanket round you.' Chapter 9
'He had announced the day before in school that Scout Finch's Daddy defended niggers.' Illustrates the prevailing racist attitude of the children at Scouts school and the wider community
'Don't say nigger, Scout. That's common.'...'Well if you don't want me to grow up talkin' that way then don't send me to school.' Atticus challenges Scout's use of the word nigger. Scout's response tells us just how commonly the word is used by the children at her school and in Maycomb.
Atticus tells Scout that he chose to defend Tom Robinson because it was the right thing to do and that he couldn't have told his children to behave in the right way and do the right thing in their own lives if he hadn't taken it on. '...I couldn't hold my head up in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again.'
We encounter a different kind of old fashioned or prejudiced attitude from Scout's Aunta Alexandra towards women. 'Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches.' Whereas atticus holds a more enlightened, open minded view, 'he didn't mind me much the way I was.'
'Grandma says it's bad enough he lets you all run wild but now he turns out a nigger lover.' Aunt Alexandra's grandson, Francis,conveys his Aunt's racist attitude towards black people and her shame at Atticus' decision to defend one.
Atticus expresses his concerns that Scout and jem survive the upcoming trial without picking up the racist attitude of Maycomb, 'I hope and pray I can get jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all without catching Maycomb's usual disease. Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving aNegro comes up, I'll never profess to know.' Atticus can't understand the racist attitude of his neighbours. Chapter 10
'Shoot all the bluejays you like, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' Atticus tries to teach the children the moral lesson that it is wrong to persectute an innocent person. The mockingbird is a symbol for innocence. It aslo represents Tom robinson and Boo Radley who are both innocent men who are persecuted in the novel. The mockingbird is a recurring motif in the novel.
Miss Maudie backs up what Atticus says, 'Mockingbirds don't do but one thing but make music for us to enjoy...That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'
The children learn a valuable lesson in prejudging someone when they see Atticus' shot the mad dog, 'Atticus is real old but I wouldn't care if he couldn't do aything...Atticus is a gentleman just like me.'
They also learn a valuable lesson in compassion- Atticus stopped shooting because he was too good a shot and it was 'an unfair advantage' over the animals. Symbols
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The title of To Kill a Mockingbird has very little literal connection to the plot, but it carries a great deal of symbolic weight in the book. In this story of innocents destroyed by evil, the “mockingbird” comes to represent the idea of innocence. Thus, to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence. Throughout the book, a number of characters (Jem, Tom Robinson, Dill, Boo Radley, Mr. Raymond) can be identified as mockingbirds—innocents who have been injured or destroyed through contact with evil. This connection between the novel’s title and its main theme is made explicit several times in the novel: after Tom Robinson is shot, Mr. Underwood compares his death to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds,” and at the end of the book Scout thinks that hurting Boo Radley would be like “shootin’ a mockingbird.” Most important, Miss Maudie explains to Scout: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but . . . sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That Jem and Scout’s last name is Finch (another type of small bird) indicates that they are particularly vulnerable in the racist world of Maycomb, which often treats the fragile innocence of childhood harshly Chapter 11
The children hold a very simplified view of Mrs Dubose, 'Jem and I hated her.'
Scout admires her father's courage in the face of Mrs Dubose's hatred and prejudice, 'It was times like these when I thought my father was the bravest man that ever lived.' She is beginning to learn what 'real courage' is.
But Scout is shocked to hear vile insults being hurled at her father by an adult, 'Your father's no better than the niggers and the trash he works for.'
Atticus again tries to explain why he must take on the Tom Robinson case saying, 'This case, Tom Robinson's case is something that goes to the essence of a man's conscience - Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help that man.' He is doing this because it is morally right and because if he didn't do it he would be a hypocrite and his conscience would torment him.
When Scout asks Atticus if he really is a 'nigger lover' he replies, 'I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody.'
Mrs Dubose dies and the children learn she had become a morphine addict to deal with the illness she was suffering from. Atticus describes her as, 'The bravest woman he had ever known' because she weaned herself off the morphine before she died despite it being perfectly acceptable for her to continue taking it given her illness. Atticus wanted Jem 'to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway, and you see it through no matter what.' Atticus hopes that the children will reassess their views of Mrs Dubose and learn a valuable lesson about courage. Theme: Courage
The author focuses on two main types of courage: 'Real courage' and courage in fighting agaisnt evil and prejudice. Chapter 1
Little Chuck Little displays courage when standing up to Burris Ewell in class, "Watch your step, Burris' he said. 'I'd soon as kill you as look at you." This is an example of both physical and moral courage. Chapter 6
Jem displays physical courage by go back to the radley place at night alone to get his trousers. Chapter 9
Atticus explains his reasons for defending Tom Robinson, '...I couldn't hold my head up in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again.' This is an example of moral courage or what Atticus would call 'real courage'. He is standing up for what is right even though the whole town, both prejudiced and unprejudiced, would understand why he wouldn't take on this doomed and dangerous case. atticus feels he must set a moral example for his children or he could not tell them what to do again without being a hypocrite.

'Simply because we were licked 100 years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.' Atticus displays his 'real courage' again when explaining to Scout that fighting for something simply because its the right thing to do is reason enough to do it; even if it's a fight you can't win.

'Somehow if I fought Cecil I knew I would let Atticus down.' Scout shows her own 'real courage' and is clearly maturing and is trying to follow Atticus' example. Chapter 10
Atticus surprises the children with his skill with a rifle when he shoulds a mad dog in the street. At first the children are impressed by what they percieve as Atticus' skill. But the more mature Jem, soon realises that Atticus gave up shooting because he was so good at it he didn't give the animals a fair chance. Atticus' compassion and fairness impresses Jem even more than his skill with a rifle. 'Atticus is real old but I wouldn't care if he couldn't do anything...Atticus is a gentleman just like me.' Atticus's moral lessons are beginning to have an influence on Jem. Chapter 11
Scout admires her father's 'real courage' in ignoring the vile prejudiced insults of Mrs Dubose, 'It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never fought in any wars, was the bravest man in the world.'

'Jem when you're as sick as she was, it's alright to take anything to make it easier, but it wasn't alright for her. She said she meant to break herself of it before she died, and that's what she did.'

'I wanted to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know your licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what...She was the bravest woman I ever knew.' Atticus did not want to think the incident with the dog was an example of real courage. He wanted them to see that courage was taking on a fight you couldn't win because it was the right thing to do. He also wanted the children to see that good and evil can coexist in a person. He was able to admire Wrs Dubose's courage while at the same time deploring her racism. This will be an important lesson for the children to learn when the trial begins. Part Two
Chapter 12
You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun' in here. They got their church, we got our'n.' - we see that prejudice works bith ways. An elderly member of Calpurnia's church feels that white people should not attend the black church. We must consider, however, that this may be brought about by bitterness about black people like herself being prohibited from attending the white church. The church itself is very rundown, highlighting the poverty of the black community.

We learn that Helen Robinson, Tom's wife, is also a victim of prejudice. 'Helen's finding it hard work to get work these days.' Despite the fact that she is completely innocent of any crime, and that her husband Tom has yet to be proven guilty, she is being refused work by white people in the community. However, we see that not everyone in the town is so prejudiced, '...when it's pickin' time I think Mr link Deas'll take her.'

We get an insight into the black community of Maycomb; they are dignified, generous, have a great sense of community. However, they are poor and badly educated - only Cal's son can read and she taught him herself. Chapter 2 - Scout's black and white view of the world and the hierarchy of Maycomb's society is conveyed: 'I thought I had been sufficiently clear. It was clear enough to the rest of us: Walter Cunningham was sitting there lying his head off. he didn't forget his lunch, he didn't have any.' She conveys the prejudiced view of most of the townspeople i.e. that the Cunninghams were dirt poor. She has a childish view and acceptance of the way things are.


Chapter 3 - Atticus tries to teach Scout about seeing something from someone elses perspective by climbing into his skin to 'crawl around in it.' This is a moral lesson scout will gradually learn as the novel progresses. He tries to teach her to look at things from the point of view of her teacher who is new to Maycomb and it's people, 'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you crawl into his skin and walk around in it.' Chapter 4
Evidence of Scout maturing under Atticus' influence, 'Calpurnia's tyranny, unfairness and meddling in my business had faded to gentle grumblings of disapproval. On my part, I went to much trouble, sometimes, not to provoke her.' She has begun to appreciate Call more and look at things from her point of view.
Miss Maudie Atkinson emerges as a positive female influence on Scout..
Atticus catches the children trying to give a letter to Boo Radley tries to get them to see things from Boo's perspective, 'How would we like it if Atticus barges in on us without knocking, when we were in our rooms at night.' Chapter 7
Mr Radley fills in the knot hole and cuts off the children's communication with Boo. Jem is devastated by this and feels a deep compassion for Boo which as of yet Scout is not mature enough to understand. Chapter 13

We are introduced to Aunt Alexandra's idea of 'fine folks', 'Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion...that the longer a family had been squatting on one one patch of land the finer it was.' In Alexandra's prejudiced view a person is not 'fine folks' or an upstanding citizen if you can't trace their family history back a few generations on the same land. Whereas, Scout has probably picked up the opinion from Atticus that 'Fine Folks' are good people who do their best in life despite their circumstances and family history. It is ironic that Aunt Alexandra wants the children to appreciate their family background despite the fact that it has a history linked with slavery, while Atticus is fighting for the rights of a black man. Chapter 14

Aunt Alexandra is horrified that the children have been to the black community's church and are planning a visit to Cal's home. She tries to convince Atticus to let Cal go but he stands his ground, 'She's a faithful member of this family and you'll simply have to accept things the way they are.' Atticus sees calpurnia as more than an employee and is unpreturbed by the colour of her skin. This is another example of Atticus' 'real courage' in the face of his sister's prejudice. Aunt Alexandra is horrified that the children have been to the black community's church and are planning a visit to Cal's home. She tries to convince Atticus to let Cal go but he stands his ground, 'She's a faithful member of this family and you'll simply have to accept things the way they are.' Atticus sees calpurnia as more than an employee and is unpreturbed by the colour of her skin. This is another example of Atticus' 'real courage' in the face of his sister's prejudice. Chapter 14 Chapter 15

Further evidence of Aunt Alexandra's prejudice towards Calpurnia nd black people in general when she criticzes Atticus for discussing attitudes towards black people in front of the children, 'I don'tthink it's a good habit, Atticus. It encourages them. You know how they talk among themselves.' Atticus demonstrates moral courage when he again defends Cal and the rights of black people, 'I don't know of any law that says they can't talk.'

Chapter 16
We are exposed to further prejudiced attitudes as Jem attempts explain Dolphus Raymond's decision to mix with the black community and the difficulties his mixed race children face,'They don't belong anywhere. Coloured folks won't have 'em because they're half white; white folks won't have 'em 'cause they're coloured.' In Maycomb's society these children are even worse off than black children as they are excluded by both communities.
Jem indictaes how deep rooted racism is in Maycomb, 'around here once you have a drop of negro blood that makes you all black.
The day of the trial itself is described as 'a gala occasion' by Scout. The townspeople have gathered for picnics and a party atmosphere grips the town. The people have come expecting only one outcome and they intend to enjoy the show.
While shock is expressed by one towns member that Atticus 'aims to defend' Tom Robinson as opposed to simply going through the motions of the trial. Chapter 15

Atticus displays both real and physical courage when he confronts the lynch mob that comes for Tom Robinson, 'You can turn around and go home Walter (Cunningham) Atticus said pleasantly' Chapter 17 - The Trial Begins

All of the trial chapters are evidence of Atticus' moral courage as he defends Tom Robinson in the face of intense prejudice from most of the town. Chapter 16
However, in the end it is not Atticus' courage which sees off the lynch mob but rather it is one of his moral lessons which Walter Cunningham, unwittingly, is forced to heed, 'You children last night forced Walter Cunningham to stand in my shoes for a minute.' Walter is faced with the prospect of attacking a man in front of his children but scout forces him to realize that he would be horrified if that were to happen to him in front of his own children.
As the trial begins the children discover that Atticus didn't have to take Tom Robinson's case and Scout is forced to question why this is. We, as the reader, already know that Atticus took this case because it was the right thing to do and that even if he didn't have to, he would have taken it anyway. We understand that the reason he wanted the children to think that it was his decision was so that he could demonstrate to them the importance of moral courage and of doing the right thing whether you're 'licked' already or not. Chapter 17 - The Trial Begins

Harper Lee sets up Bob Ewell as a wholly irredeemable character. Scout describes how the only thing that made him any better than his black neighbours 'was that, if you scrubbed with lye soap in very hot water, his skin was white.' Despite the fact that Bob Eewell is an unpleasant man who sponges of the state and never sends his children to school, his white neighbours will side with him at the trial because of the colour of his skin. This shows the extent of the prejudice amongst Maycomb's people and clearly indicates that in the town's hierarchy even a lowlife like Bob Ewell will rank higher than any black man. With an all white jury made up of the local people we begin to realise that Tom Robinson stands little chance of a fair trial.
We get an insight into the explosive nature of the trial when the courtroom erupts in indignation after Bob Ewell describes how he seen, 'That black nigger yonder ruttin' on my Mayella' Chapter 18 Chapter 19

Through Tom's testimony, we realise that Mayella Ewell is also suffers prejudice from Maycomb's society, ‘She was as sad, I thought, as what Jem called a mixed child: white people wouldn’t have anything to do with her because she lived among pigs; black people wouldn’t have anything to do with her because she was white.’ Mayella is ignored by both the black and white communities but because she is white she can always look down upon Tom as someone lower than her in the pecking order, 'she looked at him as if he were dirt beneath her feet.' She can also be sure that Maycomb will put aside its prejudices and will be fully behind her against Tom Robinson because of her skin colour.
Heck Tate's interruption to give his support of Tom's character reminds us that not all of Maycomb's society are prejudiced.
Mr Gilmer cleverly walks Tom into making a terrible admission, that he 'felt right sorry for her'. This seemingly harmless and sympathetic statement was considered to be outrageous by the people of Maycomb. In there eyes, it was inconceivable that a black man could, or should, feel sorry for a white woman. Tom had overstepped a societal boundary. Under no circumstances was it acceptable that a black man could feel sorry for a white person because that would suggest that he was some how looking down on them or felt that he was better off than them. No matter whatthe circumstances, Mayella, should always be above Tom in Maycomb's hierarchy.
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