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Transcript of TKAM
Harper Lee grew up in Monroeville, a small Southern town like Maycomb. She was very similar to Scout: she was a tomboy, her best friend was her neighbor, Truman Capote, a boy like Dill, and her father was a lawyer.
The story follows two parallel plot lines and is told in two parts. The first part concerns Boo Radley.
Boo Radley is a recluse who hasn't been seen in 15 years. In a time before television, Xbox, cell phones, and scheduled activities, children were left to their imaginations.
Boo is the fodder for gossip and tall tales around town, and the children are determined to draw him out of the house.
They hatch many schemes
to get a good look at him.
The second plot line centers on Tom Robinson, a kind, helpful black man who is the victim of the town's hateful prejudice.
Tom is accused of raping the oldest daughter of Bob Ewell, a dishonest, uneducated, disreputable white man, who has no job and neglects his children.
Atticus Finch is the father of Scout and Jem Finch. He is a wonderful father and a man of principal.
He is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, and Atticus accepts the case.
He works diligently to give Tom the best defense he can.
In a time of segregation and racial prejudice, this angers many whites in town who do not think Atticus has any business defending Tom.
As a result, the town takes out its anger on the Scout and Jem; they are harassed by other townspeople, including children and adults.
To understand the Tom Robinson plotline, you must understand the context in which the story takes place and the context of the time in which Lee was writing the novel.
Segregation and Jim Crow laws
denied blacks equal rights.
Jim Crow laws mandated a specific and
humiliating code of behavior by which black
Southerners had to abide.
A Sampling of Jim Crow laws:
A Black male could not offer his hand (to shake hands) with a White male because it implied being socially equal. Obviously, a Black male could not offer his hand or any other part of his body to a White woman, because he risked being accused of rape.
Jim Crow etiquette prescribed that Blacks were introduced to Whites, never Whites to Blacks. For example: "Mr. Peters (the white person), this is Charlie (the black person), that I spoke to you about."
Whites did not use courtesy titles of respect when referring to blacks, such as Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir, or Ma'am. Instead, black people were called by their first names only, but when a black person refered to a white person, he was required to use a courtesy title. Using a first name was not allowed.
White motorists had the right-of-way at all intersections.
Rules black people were to observe when conversing with white people:
Never assert or even intimate that a white person is lying.
Never impute dishonorable intentions to a white person.
Never lay claim to, or overly demonstrate, superior knowledge or intelligence to a white person.
Never curse a white person. Never laugh derisively at a white person. Black men should never comment upon the appearance of a white female.
Public murders carried out by deranged mobs of white people in retaliation for violating Jim Crow laws or over stepping codes established by whites.
Between 1882 and 1968, 3,440 known lynchings occurred.
Lynchings included death by hanging, burning, beating, dismemberment, or gunshot.
The majority of these lynchings occurred in the South.
This is the climate in which Harpur Lee grew up. She was 6 years old when the Scottsboro boys were accused of their crimes, just as Scout is 6 years old when Tom Robinson is accused of raping Mayella.
She wrote Mockingbird between the years of 1957 and 1960.
Emmet Till had been
Rosa Parks had refused to stand up. (1955)
The Montgomery bus boycotts had occurred. (1955)
And thousands of black people
had been unjustly accused, convicted,
assaulted, and murdered.
The Civil Rights movement was underway.
" I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers..."
1961 Pulitzer Prize winner
1962 the film won three Academy Awards.
34 years old
4th taught book in American schools. (behind Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.)
Why is it still such a popular book?
Explores themes that are timeless:
Courage to do what's right
Loss of innocence
Being a good role model
Compassion and forgiveness
Considering others' perspectives
Pay attention to the few references to mockingbirds throughout the story.
What is a mockingbird?
Though the novel takes place
in the early 1930's, To Kill A
Mockingbird, by Harper Lee is
a timeless novel that many
regard as one of the greatest
American novels ever written.
It was published in 1960, and
it was the ONLY book Harper
Lee ever wrote
Violations of any of these
rules would put the safety
of the offender and his or
her family, or home at risk.
Whites could physically beat
blacks without fear of
prosecution. In fact, it was
encouraged, because it ensured
that blacks would "behave".
Consider Emmet Till, 14,
beaten to death by white men because he whistled at a white woman.