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To Kill a Mockingbird Background Info
Transcript of To Kill a Mockingbird Background Info
by: Brittany Lewis
North Laurel High School
The Great Depression and Dust Bowl
The Scottsboro Trials
Connections and Responses
The Great Depression
The Dust Bowl
The Great Depression Continued
To Kill a Mockingbird
in the 1930's
The Great Depression, an immense tragedy that placed millions of Americans out of work, was the beginning of government involvement in the economy and in society as a whole.
It began with the Stock Market Crash on October 29, 1929, a day known as Black Tuesday.
As stock prices plummeted with no hope of recovery, panic struck. Masses and masses of people tried to sell their stock, but no one was buying.
Since many banks had also invested large portions of their clients' savings in the stock market, these banks were forced to close when the stock market crashed.
People panicked. As they all tried to pull their money out of banks, people who did not go fast enough were left with nothing. All of their savings were gone and they went bankrupt.
People who were once middle-class and had enough money to live, were forced out of their homes and to stand in soup/bread lines for food.
The presidential election of 1932 was important. President Franklin D. Roosevelt won, and put his New Deal policies into place, which would still take nearly a decade to help people who had lost everything.
In previous depressions, farmers were usually safe from the severe effects of a depression because they could at least feed themselves. Unfortunately, during the Great Depression, the Great Plains were hit hard with both a drought and horrendous dust storms.
Years and years of overgrazing combined with the effects of a drought caused the grass to disappear. With just topsoil exposed, high winds picked up the loose dirt and whirled it for miles. The dust storms destroyed everything in their paths, leaving farmers without their crops.
Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in the 1950's, and it was published in 1960. She used the novel to depict the prejudices of the South and give her opinion on the topics. While the novel is fictional, she was inspired by actions of those around her and in society.
1.) In a well-developed paragraph, explain whether or not prejudice and discrimination still exists in our society today. (remember, there are many reasons other than race to be prejudice against others)
2.) What were Jim Crow Laws? How did they end?
3.) Identify one specific example of an event that ended an aspect of segregation during the 1950s or 1960s.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout's father, Atticus, must defend a black man wrongfully accused of a crime. This was a difficult task in the South. The trial of Tom Robinson is fictional, but Lee bases it off a series of real trials, the Scottsboro Trials.
Find the 10 most important facts from this video. List them in your notes. What connections can you find between the historical context and the novel?
In your own words, describe The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl. What effects did these events have on American people?
Harper Lee was a young girl during these events. Scout, the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird, also grows up during these events. Throughout the novel, readers can see the effects through the poverty of the people of Maycomb, Alabama. Although her father, Atticus, is a lawyer, it doesn't mean they are "rich." No one had any money, and could not pay for services with traditional funds.
Prejudice and Racial Inequality
Although slavery ended with the end of the Civil War, African-Americans were not given all the liberties and freedoms of the U.S. citizens. They would fight for this for the next century.
The events of the 1930's also effected this group of people. Usually forced to work in jobs that "white" men would not take, the Great Depression forced "white" men to take any job they could get. Because of this, business owners would hire an inexperienced white man, before an experienced African-American.
Many African-Americans were still not given rights. Even when they received the right to vote, poll taxes and literacy tests prevented them from doing so, as they were poor and were never given the opportunity of an education.
Jim Crow Laws and Civil Rights Movement
An idea of "separate but equal" developed. Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second class citizens by being segregated from whites in all aspects of life (school, work, housing, restaurants, buses...)
The rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s would finally challenge and eventually end these unfair laws. Civil Rights activists and leaders lead non-violent protests, but had endure unfair violence from all angles. The road to equality was long and tough.
Respond: Summarize the Scottsboro trials in your own words. Focus on the unfairness of the situation. Would such an injustice be allowed to take place today? Why or why not?
Characters, Setting, Author, Themes, Symbols
To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in Maycomb, Alabama. The setting is important in revealing small-town life with small-town values. Many southerners in Maycomb tend to believe in "white supremacy." The setting also helps to address the ideas of social snobbery and prejudice.
Jean Louise Finch, or Scout, is the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird. A "tomboy" at heart, Scout is always getting into trouble. Since the novel is told from Scout's perspective, it is up to the reader to interpret the ways of the world in which Scout may not yet understand.
Jeremy Finch, or Jem, is Scout's older brother. Jem wants desperately to follow in his father's footsteps. Through Jem, the reader is able to see the idea of maturity.
A lawyer, and single father of Scout and Jem. Atticus is a highly respectable and responsible member of society and tried to teach his children fairness, compassion, and other life lessons.
Arthur/Boo Radley: A reclusive neighbor often mentioned in scary superstitious stories around town.
Calpurnia: cook/maid to the Finches; mother figure to Scout and Jem
Dill: creative friend of Scout and Jem who visits in the summers.
Aunt Alexandra: Sister to Atticus; worries about image
Miss Maudie: elderly neighbor and the children's confidante.
Tom Robinson: accused of a crime and Atticus defends him in court.
Bob Ewell: scum of the town, lives off the government and doesn't take care of his children.
Mayella Ewell: Bob's daughter
Miss Stephanie Crawford: the town gossip
Heck Tate: the sheriff
Miss Rachel, Mrs. Dubose, Mr. Avery: other neighbors.
The Cunninghams: country folk who do the best with what they have.
The co-existence of good and evil
The importance of moral education
Social and racial inequality
Read the biography article at http://www.biography.com/people/harper-lee-9377021
and "banned books" article at http://bannedbooks.world.edu/2012/07/30/banned-books-awareness-to-kill-a-mockingbird/
Watch a video about her at http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/10401.flv
Respond to the following:
1.) List 5 important facts about Harper Lee.
2.) How does Harper Lee use her own life as inspiration for her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird? (need at least 5 examples, with explanation)
3.) Explain the critical review of To Kill a Mockingbird. Why was/is the book so often banned? Why is it an important novel for our society?
A brief anticipatory introduction to the novel
Movie Trailer with commentary by Gregory Peck
We will now begin To Kill a Mockingbird. You must bring your novel everyday, even if we are not reading in class. If you forget your book three times, you will receive a write-up. It is your responsibility to keep up with reading selections that are assigned outside of class. Do not get behind.