To Kill a Mockingbird

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					An Introduction to Harper Lee’s
    To Kill a Mockingbird
             ENGLISH 1
            Meet the Author: Harper Lee

Born on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville,
She is related to the Confederate Civil
War general Robert E. Lee
Was six years old when the Scottsboro
trials were covered
She was educated in the public schools of
   She studied law in college, but did not go
   on to complete her degree
   Like the relationship between Scout and
   Atticus in the novel, Harper Lee’s father
   was also a lawyer
          Meet the Author: Harper Lee

 After moving to New York City, she worked as an
 airline reservations clerk
  She quit in order to work full time on To Kill a
  In 1957, she submitted the manuscript for her novel,
   but was urged to rewrite it
  She spent over two years reworking it from this point
   – it was finally published in 1960
  In 1961, Lee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the
             Lee’s Legacy: TKAM Turns 50

 Within a year of its publication date, TKAM sold 500,000
 By 1975, 11,113,909 copies had sold
 By 1982, over 15,000,000 had sold
 The novel has never been out of print since its publication.
     “You see, I never expected any sort of success with
      Mockingbird. I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place.
      I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of
      reviewers, but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe
      someone would like it enough to give me encouragement.
      Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got
      rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as
      frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.“
      -Harper Lee’s reaction to the success of
      To Kill A Mockingbird (1964 interview)
                TKAM Literary Style

 Gothic Literature
   Originated in 18th and 19th century British fiction

   Became an important mode of writing for Southern authors
    such as Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee.

 Elements of Gothic Literature
   Murder                    Unnatural Lineage
   Ghosts                    Interest in the Past
   Imprisonment              Dark Secrets
   Architectural Ruins       Insanity
                   TKAM Literary Style

 Bildungsroman
   German for ―novel of education‖
   A genre of novel that focuses on the maturation and coming-
    of-age of the central characters
     This growth is both psychological and moral
     Change is an extremely important factor in these plots
     Usually in the beginning of the story there is an emotional loss
      which makes the protagonist leave on his journey.
     The goal is maturity, and the protagonist achieves it gradually and
      with difficulty.
       The genre often features a main conflict between the main
        character and society.
       Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the
        protagonist and he is ultimately accepted into society – the
        protagonist's mistakes and disappointments are over.
                   Historical Influences of TKAM
                        Economic Disaster

     Started after the stock market crash on Oct. 29, 1929
     Effects of the crash:
       Banks stopped loans to businesses
       As a result, production cut back and millions of Americans
        lost their jobs
          In 1933, 13 million people were unemployed

          The approximate population of the U.S. at this time was
       Factories closed
       Consumption of farm products declined
          750,000 farmers lost their land due to the economic
              Historical Influences of TKAM
                   Economic Disaster

 The Depression affected more than the working class
   Professionals in agricultural counties felt the impact as well
     Often times, they depended on farmers for their fees.
     In hard times, these fees for professional services were sometimes
      paid in items like
     crops and produce.

 Overall, spending dwindled, factories and stores
  closed, and consumption of farm products (in
  conjunction with the Dust Bowl) declined severely.
                Historical Influences of TKAM
              A New President, A New Direction

 II. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    32nd President of the United States
        Perspective Check: Obama is the 44th president
    Elected in 1932
      In his Inaugural Address, he made the now famous statement that
       ―The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.‖
      With the support of Congress, he promoted a program called The New
      The New Deal required heavy federal control in the nation’s economic
        With the support of Congress, he created government agencies
          intended to create jobs and stability in harsh economic times
        Three primary agencies: Works Progress Administration (WPA),
          Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Farm Credit
          Administration (FCA)
                  Historical Influences of TKAM
                        Natural Disaster

    The Dust Bowl of the 1930s lasted about a decade. Its primary area of
     impact was on the southern Plains.
        In fact, the agricultural devastation helped to lengthen the Depression
         (whose effects were felt worldwide.)
    The movement of people on the Plains was also profound.
    For eight years dust blew on the southern plains.
      It came in a yellowish-brown haze from the South and in rolling walls
       of black from the North.
      The simplest acts of life — breathing, eating a meal, taking a walk —
       were no longer simple.
      Children wore dust masks to and from school, women hung wet sheets
       over windows in a futile attempt to stop the dirt, farmers watched
       helplessly as their crops blew away.
Historical Influences of TKAM
      Natural Disaster
                         Historical Influences of TKAM
                               Natural Disaster

                                           Timeline of The Dust Bowl
   1931
     Severe drought hits the midwestern and southern plains. As the crops die, the 'black blizzards" begin. Dust
       from the over-plowed and over-grazed land begins to blow.
   1932
     The number of dust storms is increasing. Fourteen are reported this year; next year there will be 38.

   1933
       FDR declare a four-day bank holiday, during which time Congress came up with the Emergency Banking
       Act of 1933, which stabilized the banking industry and restored people's faith in the banking system by
       putting the federal government behind it.
     The Emergency Farm Mortgage Act allots $200 million for refinancing mortgages to help farmers facing
       foreclosure. The Farm Credit Act of 1933 established a local bank and set up local credit associations.
     The largest agricultural strike in America's history begins. More than 18,000 cotton workers with the
       Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union (CAWIU) went on strike for 24 days. During the
       strike, two men and one woman were killed and hundreds injured. In the settlement, the union was
       recognized by growers, and workers were given a 25 percent raise.
   1934
     Great dust storms spread from the Dust Bowl area. The drought is the worst ever in U.S. history, covering
       more than 75 percent of the country and affecting 27 states severely.
     Approximately 35 million acres of formerly cultivated land have essentially been destroyed for crop
       production. . . . 100 million acres now in crops have lost all or most of the topsoil; 125 million acres of land
       now in crops are rapidly losing topsoil. . . "
                  Historical Influences of TKAM
                        Natural Disaster

 1935
     The federal government forms a Drought Relief Service to coordinate relief
     FDR approves the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, which
      provides $525 million for drought relief, and authorizes creation of
      the Works Progress Administration, which would employ 8.5 million
     April 14: Black Sunday. The worst "black blizzard" of the Dust Bowl
      occurs, causing extensive damage.
     April 27: Congress declares soil erosion "a national menace" in an act
      establishing the Soil Conservation Service in the Department of
      Agriculture (formerly the Soil Erosion Service in the U.S.
      Department of Interior).
     Experts estimate that 850,000,000 tons of topsoil have blown off the
      Southern Plains during the course of the year, and that if the drought
      continued, the total area affected would increase from 4,350,000
      acres to 5,350,000 acres in the spring of 1936.
                      Historical Influences of TKAM
                            Natural Disaster

 1936
   Los Angeles Police Chief James E. Davis sends 125 policemen to patrol the borders of
     Arizona and Oregon to keep "undesirables" out. As a result, the American Civil Liberties
     Union sues the city.
   The SCS publishes a soil conservation district law, which, if passed by the states, allows
     farmers to set up their own districts to enforce soil conservation practices for five-year
 1937
   Roosevelt addresses the nation in his second inaugural address, stating, "I see one-third of
     the nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished . . . the test of our progress is not whether we add
     more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those
     who have too little."
   FDR's Shelterbelt Project begins. The project called for large-scale planting of trees across
     the Great Plains, stretching in a 100-mile wide zone from Canada to northern Texas, to
     protect the land from erosion.
 1938
   The extensive work re-plowing the land into furrows, planting trees in shelterbelts, and
     other conservation methods has resulted in a 65 percent reduction in the amount of soil
     blowing. However, the drought continued.
 1939
   In the fall, the rain comes, finally bringing an end to the drought. During the next few years,
     with the coming of World War II, the country is pulled out of the Depression and the plains
     once again become golden with wheat.
                Historical Influences of TKAM
                        Racial Tension

 IV. Prelude to Civil Rights
   Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln in 1863
       Freed slaves at the time
       Despite this, it would take almost 100 years for the real fight for
        civil rights of African Americans to begin
         Still considered third-class citizens, African Americans had been
           ―free‖ for over 60 years (in the time of the novel), but had few
           rights in American society
     Southern Segregation
        Especially in the South, African Americans usually worked menial
        / labor jobs (field hands, housemaids, cooks, etc…)
       Widely held prejudice/stereotype at the time Lee’s novel = African
        Americans maliciously lie, cheat, and steal on a routine basis.
               Social Class in the Novel
This concept of
social class is very                                 Country Folk
similar to how class
structure really                                     "White Trash"
existed during the
1930’s in the South.                                 Black
The wealthy,                                         Community
although fewest in
number, were most
powerful. The
blacks, although
                        Examples of each social class:
great in number,
were lowest on the      Wealthy - Finches
class ladder, and
                        Country Folk - Cunninghams
thus, had the least
privileges.             “White Trash” – Ewells
                        Black Community – Tom Robinson
                 Historical Influences of TKAM
                         Racial Tension

 I. The Scottsboro Trials (1931 – 1937)
    On March 25, 1931, several groups of white and black men and two
     white women were riding the rails from Tennessee to Alabama in
     various open and closed railroad cars designed to carry freight and
    At one point on the trip, the black and white men began fighting. One
     white man would later testify that the African-Americans started the
     fight, and another white man would later claim that the white men
     had started the fight.
    In any case, most of the white men were thrown off the train.
        When the train arrived at Paint Rock, Alabama, all those riding the
         rails-including nine black men, at least one white man, and the two
         white women--were arrested, probably on charges of vagrancy.
    Upon leaving the train, the two women immediately accused the
     African-American men of raping them in an open railroad car.
                 Historical Influences of TKAM
                         Racial Tension

 The trial of the nine men began on April 6, 1931, only twelve days after the
  arrest, and lasted three days.
   The chief witnesses included the two women accusers, one white man
     who had remained on the train and corroborated their accusations,
     another acquaintance of the women who refused to corroborate their
     accusations, the physician who examined the women, and the accused
     nine black men.
   The accused claimed that they had not even been in the same car with
     the women, and the defense attorneys also argued that one of the
     accused was blind and another too sickly to walk unassisted and thus
     could not have committed such a violent crime.
   On April 9, 1931, eight of the nine were sentenced to death; a mistrial
     was declared for the ninth because of his youth. The executions were
     suspended pending court appeals, which eventually reached the
     Supreme Court of the United States.
      By 1937 (and after an exhaustive and dramatic series of retrials), four
       of the men’s charges were dropped…after they had spent 6 years in
      That same year, the remaining convicted men were sent to various
       prisons to serve life terms.
                     To Kill a Mockingbird:
                            The Novel

 I. Setting
   1930’s – small , agricultural town called Maycomb, Alabama
       Microcosm = a world within a world
       Maycomb, essentially, is a microcosm for the topic of segregation
        and racism in the early 20th century
         This novel is as much a study of community violence and
          prejudice as it is a tale of children growing and maturing
     Juxtaposition = contrast between two features in literature
       Lee’s descriptions of Maycomb include those of beautiful flora and
        fauna (azaleas, camellias, thriving oak trees…)
       This directly contrasts with the horrible conditions of poor white
        and black populations living on the outer edge of the city dump
               To Kill a Mockingbird:
                      The Novel

 II. Additional Microcosms
  The Courtroom
    Microcosm for the American justice system
  The School

    Microcosm for the segregated South
  The Church

    Microcosm for African American faith and
                   To Kill a Mockingbird:
                          The Novel

 III. Primary Conflicts
    Man vs. Society:
      The conflict of man vs. society is basically one that deals
       with the prejudices, and values that the society holds.
      The individual that poses a different view than the
       society, is discriminated against, for not "flowing with the
        Boo Radley vs. Society
         • The fear of the unknown plays a major role in this
         • Serves as a symbolic tie to the title
        Robinson vs. White Society:
         • Another symbolic tie to the title
                To Kill a Mockingbird:
                       The Novel

 Man vs. Man
  Primary:
    Bob Ewell vs. Tom Robinson
    The Ewells vs. Atticus Finch
  Secondary/Extended Examples:

    Scout vs. Aunt Alexandra
    Scout vs. her teachers
                      To Kill a Mockingbird:
                             The Novel

 IV. Motifs
   Atticus’ hidden courage

   Mob mentality

   Social classes
         Note: The Cunninghams vs. The Ewells
     Maturity
         Note: Jem and Scout
     Prejudice
     Friendship
     Sacrifice

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