To Kill A Mockingbird 51grMGCKivL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

By Harper Lee

CONTENTS

PDF of the novel


To greet the release of Harper Lee’s long lost Go Set a Watchman, we present a unique, immersive tribute to its legendary companion, To Kill a Mockingbird. First published 45 years ago to immediate acclaim (and a swift Pulitzer gong), To Kill a Mockingbird’s influence runs deep – through the legal and political establishment as well as the literary world.
With the help of six writers, thinkers and artists, and playwright Anne-Louise Sarks, we pull apart and rebuild Mockingbird. They take us through the key moments of the story so well-loved, exposing its incisive relevance through discussions of its major concerns: themes such as race, class and gender, and laws written and unwritten.
Led by host Jennifer Byrne, Nicola Roxon, Lex Lasry, Tony Birch, Virginia Gay and Bruce Gladwin traverse multiple moments and characters from the text as they celebrate a legacy – and its historic twist – half a century in the making.




ASSESSMENT













Further Reading

ferguson august 2014.jpgFerguson

The law may have spoken, but the Ferguson verdict is not justice by Gary Younge
The Guardian 26th November 2014


Indigenous Australia knows the cynicism exposed by Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson.
by Larissa Behrendt. The Guardian 26th November 2014

In Ferguson, the violence of the state created the violence of the street by Gary Younge The Guardian 18th August 2014

Mike Brown's shooting and Jim Crow lynchings have too much in common.
by Isabel Wilkerson, The Guardian 25th August 2014

http://qz.com/250701/12-things-white-people-can-do-now-because-ferguson/

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/27650-being-black-the-real-indictment-in-ferguson-and-the-usa

http://thinkprogress.org/sports/2014/11/25/3596896/athletes-react-to-ferguson-decision-on-social-media/

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/11/25/3596884/ferguson-legal-experts/



School Break Tasks

  • Read the text To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Pay close attention to the ways in which meaning is constructed by the author
  • Annotate key quotations or passages
    • Key character descriptions and scenes
    • Significant scenes (points of tensions, changes in the plot development)
    • Representations of the social, historical, cultural context of the time



PRACTICE ESSAY TOPICS

1. Atticus Finch has been described as 'the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism'. Does Atticus deserve the mantle of hero in this novel?
2. “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads—they couldn’t be fair if they tried.” How does Harper Lee present the children’s evolving understanding of justice?
3. Jem: “I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like” (237) What do the children learn about their town?
4. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird provides simple and optimistic solutions to some serious societal problems’. To what extent do you agree?



ESSAY GUIDELINES and ADVICE









CHARACTER







SETTING


Focus on one of the following sections within the text, considering the setting in each context. Analyse how the description of setting communicates ideas related to themes, issues and/or characters. Complete the table (see below).

  1. A Negro would not pass the Radley Place at night; he would cut across to the sidewalk opposite and whistle as he walked. The Maycomb school grounds adjoined the back of the Radley lot; from the Radley chicken yard tall pecan trees shook their fruit into the schoolyard, but the nuts lay untouched by the children: Radley pecans would kill you. A baseball hit into the Radley yard was a lost ball and no questions asked. (1;9)
  2. An oppressive odour met us when we crossed the threshold, an odour I had met many times in rain-rotted grey houses where there are coal-oil lamps, water dippers and unbleached domestic sheets. It always made me afraid, expectant, watchful. (11; 117)
  3. The churchyard was brick-hard clay, as was the cemetery beside it. If someone died during a dry spell, the body was covered with chunks of ice until rain softened the earth. A few graves in the cemetery were marked with crumbling tombstones; newer ones were outlined with brightly coloured glass and broken Coca-Cola bottles. Lightening rods guarding some graves denoted dead who rested uneasily; stumps of burned-out candles stood at the heads of infant graves. It was a happy cemetery. (12;130)
  4. The Maycomb jail was the most venerable and hideous of the county’s buildings. Atticus said it was like something Cousin Joshua St Clair might have designed. It was certainly someone’s dream. Starkly out of place in a town of square-faced stores and steep-roofed houses, the Maycomb jail was a miniature Gothic joke one cell wide and two cells high, complete with tiny battlements and flying buttresses. Its fantasy was heightened by its red brick façade and the thick steel bars at its ecclesiastical windows. It stood on no lonely hill, but was wedged between Tyndal’s Hardware Store and the Maycomb Tribune office. The jail was Maycomb’s only conversation piece; its detractors said it looked like a Victorian privy; its supporters said it gave the town a good solid respectable look, and no stranger would ever suspect that it was full of niggers. (15; 165)
  5. The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactly the same as a cold February morning, when the mockingbirds were still, and the carpenters had stopped hammering on Miss Maudie's new house, and every wood door in the neighbourhood was shut as tight as the doors of the Radley Place. A deserted, waiting, empty street and the courtroom was packed with people. A steaming summer night was no different from a winter morning. […]. I expected Mr Tate to say any minute, "Take him, Mr Finch...." (21;232)



Reflection: How does the town of Maycomb function as a character with its own personality, rather than merely as a backdrop for the novel's events? (150-300 words)




THEMES







JUSTICE


Atticus insists to the jury that “there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal – there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court.” (p. 234)
Re-read Atticus’ speech on pages 224-227 and complete the following questions:

i. Does the jury’s guilty verdict invalidate Atticus’ claims?
ii. Are the courts today “the great levellers”, making us all equal, as Atticus believes, or do wealth and race play an inordinate role in the way justice is still distributed in Australia?

You can watch the scene from the film here:
American Rhetoric: Movie Speeches-Atticus' Closing Speech


RACE AND JUSTICE


"Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand." Atticus Finch

In discussing Tom's conviction, Atticus foregrounds the problem of 'Negro law', though he does not use this term. Jem struggles with Tom's death sentence, even though rape is a capital offence in Alabama. But, as Atticus argues, the sentence is based not on evidence, but on race: "Tom Robinson's a coloured man, Jem. No jury in this part of the world's going to say, 'we think you're guilty, but not very' on a charge like that. It was either straight aquittal or nothing" (242). The 'nothing', Atticus implies, was always the more likely outcome. Jem is dissatisfied with a jury-based system: "No, sit, they oughta do away with juries. He wasn't guilty in the first place and they said he was" (243). Atticus, when he defends juries, is circumspect: he mentions that women cannot serve on juries (244), but not that black men cannot. However, her raises a more problematic issue:

Those are twelve reasonable men in everyday life, Tom's jury, but you saw something come between them and reason. You saw the same thing that night in front of the jail. When that crew went away, they didn't go as reasonable men, they went because we were there (243)

Here, Atticus connects the jury to the lynch mob. In doing so, he draws out the limited options avaliable to Tom in the legal system: once accused of raping a white woman, he would die, either at the hands of the mob or under the sentence of the court. Tom's fate rests on a question of race, not justice.

Tom is in contrast to boo Radley. Both Tom and Boo are compared to the mockingbird, which it is a sin to kill. But when Boo kills Bob Ewell, the town authorities (represented by Heck Tate and Atticus) close ranks around him. Boo, unlike Tom and Bob Ewell, is from one of Maycomb's respectable white families. Thus, Heck Tate protects the shy Boo from both the rigours of a trial and the town's gratitude. The cover-up of his crime is a sharp counterpoint to Tom's sufferings under the South's unspoken 'Negro law'.
(from Insight Study Guide)


GENDER


If we view the genre of the novel as a ‘bildungsroman’ (coming of age story) and view it through a gendered lens, then we might also regard it as a story about children learning to be good young men and women in civic society. The characters of Scout and Jem are the dominant exemplars of this transformation, with minor characters such as Dill, Walter Cunningham and Mayella Ewell also playing a crucial role, enabling readers to appreciate the complex web of factors that determine how boys and girls grow up to be good Southern men and women.

Consider the following:
  • What does it take to become a man/woman?
  • How does society define man/womanhood and does this definition vary according to certain factors such as race, class, age or the colour of your skin?
  • Does society currently have these definitions right? Why/why not?
  • How has this definition or concept changed since the era in which the novel is set (and the era in which it was first published)?
  • How might this impact on the various interpretations of the gender roles and relationships in the text?

In the two extracts below, certain qualities are given to men and certain qualities to women. How does the text uphold and/or challenge/resist traditional/customary expectations of the roles of men and women?
Extract 1
'… Miss Maudie can't serve on a jury because she's a woman.' 'You mean women in Alabama can't -?' I was indignant. 'I do. I guess it's to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom's. Besides,' Atticus grinned, 'I doubt if we'd ever get a complete case tried - the ladies'd be interrupting to ask questions.' Jem and I laughed ... Perhaps our fore fathers were wise.'

Extract 2
There was no doubt about it; I must soon enter this world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water. But I was more at home in my father's world. People like Mr Heck Tate did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you; even Jem was not highly critical unless you said something stupid. Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men, seemed unwilling to approve wholeheartedly of them. But I liked them. There was something about them, no matter how much they cussed and drank and gambled and chewed; no matter how undelectable they were, there was something about them that I instinctively liked..

  • Both Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra represent types of the southern lady. How do the two characters differ? How are they alike? What does Scout learn from each of them?
    • The representations of gender stereotypes that Harper Lee generates throughout her narrative, differ across the characters. In her representation of the women of the south, Lee uses characters such as Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra to convey these variances. Miss Maudie is represented as a character who tends to mind her own business. According to Scout, she is “a relatively benign presence” within the neighborhood, preferring to spend her days “in her flower beds in an old straw hat and men’s coveralls”. In contrast, Aunt Alexandra is perpetually preoccupied with the business of others, hosting Missionary Society sittings, “participating in the life of the county”. In spite of this personality difference, the two women also share much in common...

  • Calpurnia plays a pivotal role in raising the Finch children. Thematically, her character occupies a vital place at the intersection of race, gender and class. Read from the following pages - 27, 32, 83, 127, 139, 151, 228, 252. Describe how Calpurnia is represented in these scenes and discuss the significance of these depictions.
    • Lee is able to bring together her preoccupations with race, gender and class in her representation of the character Calpurnia. We see with her character, someone who suffers the prejudices against her race, in spite of her apparent status amongst the negro people of Maycomb county...

Individually respond to the following statement (300 words):
‘Mayella and Scout both represent the antithesis to the ideal of the good Southern woman.’ Discuss


THE OUTSIDER


Outsider status in Maycomb society is not only a matter of race. Despite it being an insular town, most of its inhabitants are outsiders in some way. Miss Maudie is a Baptist at odds with the 'foot-washing Baptists', who 'believe anything that's pleasure is a sin' (49), including Miss Maudie's flowers. Dill Harris is 'a curiosity' in his 'blue linen shorts that bottoned to his shirt' (8) compared to Scout's Depression-era schoolmates, 'the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted first grade' (18). The broadest example of this type of outsider is Boo Radley, whose minor transgression against the town's mores-not nly charges of assault and battery and disordel conduct but also 'using abusive and profane language in the presence and hearing of a female' (11), leads to his imprisonment.
However, these characters are all ultimately accepted by the community, even Boo Radley, whom the older town citizens (primarily Atticus, Miss Maudie and Heck Tate) defend, not only from a charge of murder, but also from the minor disrespect of being called 'Boo' instead of the traditional Southern 'Mr Arthur'. The social outsider is more noticeable in extreme cases, particularly Mr Dolphus Raymond and the Ewells.
The Ewells are geographically isolated from Maycomb, living outside the dump, where they are socially suspended between the town and the African-American community. Mayella is even isolated from Maycomb's basic Southern courtesies, reacting as though her being called 'Miss Mayella' is intended as sarcasm (201). This isolation is not the town's response to the alcoholic, abusive Bob Eweall only. Atticus tells Scout that "the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations" (33). Their isolation crosses multiple generations, until they are 'members of an exclusive society made up of Ewells' (34).
Despite their extreme outsider status, the Ewells can reintegrate themselves when necessary. Atticus explains to Scout early in the novel that the Ewells are exempt from some laws: the children do not have to attend school and Bob Ewell can hunt and trap out of season, though this 'misdemeanour at law' is 'a capital felony in the eyes of the populace' (34). For a true capital felony, however, the Ewells expect the town that scorns them to support them. As Mayella demonstrates after her flawed testimony, she need only raise the question of race: "that nigger yonder took advantage of me, an' if you fine fancy gentleman don't want to do nothin' about it then you're all yelloe stinkin' cowards. As a white woman in a society in which the races are legally and socially segregated, Mayella's isolation still allows her to claim the protection of the broader community, something to which Tom Robinson is nto entitled.
(from Insight Study Guide)



HOW THE AUTHOR CONSTRUCTS MEANING




The following PPT contains notes on the function and construction of character, as well as other literary features used by Harper Lee.


1. Narrative Structure

To Kill a Mockingbird is a cyclical novel, beginning with "when he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow" (3) and ending with Jem sedated after this injury.

2. Point of View

To tell this story, Harper Lee adopts two narrative voices. The overacrhing narrator is the adult, who tells the story retrospectively: "When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident." The second narrator is Scout: her voice is embedded with Lee's narrative. Lee shows Scout's growth by switching between these narrative voices. When Aunt Alexandra forces Atticus to explain Finch family history in Chapter 13, Scout tells us, "I felt myself beginning to cry, but I could not stop", because she cannot understand her father's curtness (147). The adult narrator intrudes to say, "I know now what he was trying to do, but Atticus was only a man. It takes a woman to do that kind of work' (148). These switching perspectives provide different insights, while allowing readers to understand the role of memory in shaping our world view. Some readers find this style problematic, arguing that 'Lee's problem has been to tell the story she wants to tell and yet to stay within the consciousness of a child and she hasn't consistently solved it' (cited in Shields 2007 p.128). The result however, is that the novel is narrated form the perspective of a child who only appreciates the complexities of the events when she becomes an adult.

3. Literary Features


Figurative Language

The following quotations are examples of metaphor, personification and simile:
  • Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.(5)
  • The Radley place fascinated Dill. In spite of our warnings it drew him as the moon draws water. (9)
  • The house was the same, droopy and sick, but as we stared down the street we thought we saw an inside shutter move. Flick. A tiny, almost invisible movement and the house was still (16)
  • [Auntie said] I should be a ray of sunshine in my father’s lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, that I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year. (90)
  • Mr.Gilmer waited for Mayella to collect herself: she had twisted her handkerchief into a sweaty rope (199)
Consider how the use of such figurative language creates a visual image for readers, thereby emphasizing the significance of the subject matter in relation to themes and ideas in the narrative. The various connotations thus provide scope for differing interpretations.

Idiom

  • as sure as eggs: Something that is bound to happen; just as chickens are sure to lay eggs
  • set my teeth permanently on edge: to annoy someone or make them feel nervous the way in which Aunt Alexandra tends to annoy Scout
  • travelled in state: To travelin state is to do so in the position of a person of great wealth and rank
  • he had seen the light: In this case to have seen the light means to have become religious
  • blind spots: a prejudice or area of ignorance that someone has but is unaware of. Mr Cunningham's blind spot is his prejudice against Tom Robinson
  • guests of the county: on public assistance or welfare
  • into the limelight: in theatre, the limelight is an intense light thrown on stage in order to highlight an actor, etc. To be in the limelight is to be put in prominent position before the public

Allusions

  • nothing to fear but fear itself (6): an allusion to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first Inaugural Address
  • Thus we came to know Dill as a pocket Merlin (8): King Arthur's adviser, prophet and magician
  • stump hole whiskey (10): illegally made and sold whiskey that would be hidden in the holes of tree stumps
  • bread lines in the cities grew longer (128): during the Great Depression, thousands of people relied on charitable organizations for meals and would line up for simple meals often of bread and soup
  • Mrs Roosevelt-just plain lost her mind coming down to Birmingham and tryin’ to sit with ‘em (258): in 1939, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended a meeting for the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in Birmingham, Alabama where she defied state authorities by sitting in the centre aisle, between whites and blacks, after police told her she was violating segregation laws by sitting with black people.

4. Motifs









HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL CONTEXT

The narrative is set in the 1930s in a fictional town called Maycomb in Alabama (deep South of USA).
The 1930s
  • Over 25% of labour force unemployed during worst years of the Great Depression.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt wins presidency with promise of his "New Deal," 1932.
  • The Scottsboro Boys trials last from 1931 to 1937. Harper Lee is four years old when these trials commence.
The 1940s
  • Jackie Robinson (African-American) signs baseball contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, 1947.
  • President Truman ends segregation in the military and discrimination in federal hiring.
  • Harper Lee moves to New York City to become a writer.
The 1950s
  • Emmett Till Trials (1955)
  • Novel completed (1957)
  • Civil Rights Movement (1950s/60s)
The 1960s
  • Novel published (1960)
  • Pulitzer Prize Winner (1961)
  • Academy award winning film (1962)

Jim Crow Segregation Lawswatercooler.jpg

From the 1880s into the 1960s, a majority of American states enforced segregation through "Jim Crow" laws (so called after a black character in minstrel shows). From Delaware to California, and from North Dakota to Texas, many states (and cities, too) could impose legal punishments on people for consorting with members of another race.
The most common types of laws forbade intermarriage and ordered business owners and public institutions to keep their black and white clientele separated.



The Great Depresssion


dorothea lange - elm grove - 1936.jpgIn October 1929 the stock market crashed, wiping out 40% of the paper values of common stock. Even after the stock market collapse, however, politicians and industry leaders continued to issue optimistic predictions for the nation's economy. But the Depression deepened, confidence evaporated and many lost their life savings.
By 1933 the value of stock on the New York Stock Exchange was less than a fifth of what it had been at its peak in 1929. Business houses closed their doors, factories shut down and banks failed. Farm income fell some 50%. By 1932 approximately one out of every four Americans was unemployed.
In 1933 the new president, Franklin Roosevelt, brought an air of confidence and optimism that quickly rallied the people to the banner of his program, known as the New Deal. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," the president declared in his inaugural address to the nation.
By 1933 millions of Americans were out of work. Bread lines were a common sight in most cities. Hundreds of thousands roamed the country in search of food, work and shelter. "Brother, can you spare a dime?" went the refrain of a popular song.

Scottsboro Trials (1931-1937)

Lee’s Alabama childhood coincided with the courageous national and international movement—spearheaded by both the NAACP and the Communist Party–to defend the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine young black men falsely accused of raping two white women.
When their cases reached the Supreme Court, the justices ruled that defendants were entitled to legal counsel and that blacks should be allowed to sit on southern juries. Attorney Samuel Liebowitz, hired by the Communist Party, preparing his defenseof the “Scottsboro Boys” in Alabama in 1935. The character of Atticus Finch rightly encourages our appreciation of the individual willing to stand up to such community pressure in the name of honesty, justice, and honor. In truth, during the 1930s successful defense against such “legal lynching” came from the collective actions of black people themselves, in concert with organized sympathetic white allies, rather than the lone, heroic individual. Lee’s Alabama childhood coincided with the courageous national and international movement—spearheaded by both the NAACP and the Communist Party–to defend the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine young black men falsely accused of raping two white women. When their cases reached the Supreme Court, the justices ruled that defendants were entitled to legal counsel and that blacks should be allowed to sit on southern juries. The civil rights generation of the 1950s and 1960s built on these early legal victories by mobilizing thousands of southern black people to fight once and for all against segregation, for the right to vote, and for equality before the law.





Emmett Till Trial (1955)

Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American from Chicago, is beaten, shot and lynched by whites after allegedly whistling at a white woman in a store in Mississippi.



Emmett Till Trial Timeline

Civil Rights Movement

Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird during the beginning of the Civil Rights era (from about 1955 to 1958). Alabama was very much in the news at this time with the Montgomery bus boycott, Martin Luther King's rise to leadership and Autherine Lucy's attempt to attend graduate school at the University of Alabama.
Lee was well known on the University of Alabama campus as editor of the politically satirical student newspaper. After graduation, she entered law school, leaving one semester short of receiving a law degree. Lee's book was published in 1960, a time of tumultuous events and racial strife as the struggle in the Civil Rights movement grew violent and spread into cities across the nation.




Background Information


American Civil War (1861-1865)

The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.
The event that triggered war came at Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay on April 12, 1861. Claiming this United States fort as their own, the Confederate army on that day opened fire on the federal garrison and forced it to lower the American flag in surrender. Lincoln called out the militia to suppress this "insurrection." Four more slave states seceded and joined the Confederacy. By the end of 1861 nearly a million armed men confronted each other along a line stretching 1200 miles from Virginia to Missouri.
While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation it would be.
The war resolved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution:
  1. Whether the United States was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government
  2. Whetherthis nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty, would continue to exist as the largest slaveholding country in the world.
Northern victory in the war preserved the United States as one nation and ended the institution of slavery that had divided the country from its beginning. But these achievements came at the cost of 625,000 lives--nearly as many American soldiers as died in all the other wars in which this country has fought combined.

Slavery and the abolitionists



Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
Isabella Van Wagenen was born into slavery in Hurley, New York in 1797. Her twelve siblings was also sold as slaves. Her master, Mr. Dumont arranged for her to marry a slave named Thomas. She had 5 children with him, but her master sold some of them. She was released following the New York Anti Slavery Law of 1827, however slavery was not abolished nationwide until 35 years later. She became an outspoken advocate of women's rights as well as blacks' rights. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth . She actively supported the Black troops during the Civil War and advocated for the government to give these soldiers land. Sojourner Truth gave her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio



DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS and CRITICAL READINGS




A Novel of The Civil Rights Struggle (August 2010)

Stuff White People Do_ Warmly Embrace a Racist Novel (July 2010)

Rereading: To Kill a Mockingbird

American Classic: To Kill a Mockingbird (Books and Arts Daily-Radio National 30th Dec 2010)










http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/10/090810fa_fact_gladwell?printable=true






RESOURCES (miscellaneous)



Compilation sourced from multiple sites on Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird





Quotation analysis template:


Sample Responses


The following responses should be used as learning tools. They are NOT intended to be exemplars, as such, you should NOT copy these and duplicate the content in your own essays. Rather, you should try to identify ways in which these essays might be improved.

Different Interpretations

Here are some ways in which you might discuss how the text is open to different interpretations. The bolded phrases indicate how to write about the text as a construct and how to suggest different readings of the text.

Atticus’ earlier moral teachings about empathy and protecting the innocent are also reinforced in the final chapters, as Lee presents Scout’s evolved understanding of the application of such moral tenets. After Boo saves the children from Ewell’s violent assault, subsequent to Atticus and Sherriff Tate deciding to claim that “Bob Ewell fell on his knife”, Scout reflects on the possible consequences of accusing Boo of the murder of their assailant, saying “it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird’. On the one hand, this revelation and the subsequent return of Boo to his family home can be read as justice being served and harmony being restored to the neighbourhood. Another interpretation might question Atticus’ inconsistent application of the law, as a closing message that condones or turns a blind eye to an act of violence, while the earlier lynch mob scene serves as a condemnation of vigilante justice. Furthermore, Scout’s comment that “nothin’s real scary, except in books” can be read as Lee’s dismissal of the frightening realities of violence fuelled by bigotry. Given the fact that the death of Tom Robinson is essentially given scant attention in the narrative, some contemporary readers may be dissatisfied with the closing message about empathy, shown through a nostalgic musing that “good neighbours bring flowers with death”. A resistant reading of this novel might posit that the resolution of the narrative conveniently overlooks serious societal problems, such as the prevailing bigotry and prejudice within the town, the murder of an innocent negro male, the assault of a young white woman and the attack on two children. Instead, Lee's adult narrator concludes with a heart-warming, nostalgic description of the comfort and security of a father's love for his children.



SAMPLE RESPONSES










Revision resources