To Kill a Mockingbird By: Harper Lee (Background notes / overview / characters) Author & Novel Background Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She attended and studied law at the University of Alabama. However, she left 6 months before getting her degree – went to NY, and worked as an airline reservations clerk (her family / friends supported her financially, so she could devote her time to writing) Mockingbird – sent to a publisher in 1957, but not published for 2 ½ years (after much rewriting) Author & Novel Background Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1960. (This is the only book she has written.) Plot / Characters – suggested by her own experiences in the small town of Monroeville, Alabama. Her father – model for lawyer/hero Atticus Her mother – maiden name was “Finch” Overview of the novel… The novel covers three years in the life of Jean Louise (Scout) Finch, the young daughter of an Alabama lawyer. (told in the 1st person) Scout's narrative relates how she and her older brother, Jem, learn about fighting prejudice and upholding human dignity through the example of their father. Plot Summary: Scout and Jem live with their widowed father, Attitcus, in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Setting takes place during the Depression (after 1929). Atticus Finch has taken on the legal defense of a black man who has been falsely charged with raping a white woman. Parallels to the Tom Robinson case (don’t copy) March 25, 1931 - a freight train was stopped in Paint Rock, a tiny town in northern Alabama. Nine young African American men, who had been riding the train, were arrested. As two white women (one underage) got off of the freight cars, they accused the men of raping them on the train. Within a month, the first man was found guilty and sentenced to death. There was a series of trials condemning the other men solely on the testimony of the older woman, a known prostitute, who was attempting to avoid prosecution under the Mann Act, prohibiting taking minors across state lines for immoral purposes, like prostitution. Although none of the accused were executed, a number remained on death row for many years. The case was not settled until 1976 with the pardon of the last of the Scottsboro defendants. Characters… (to help keep them straight) Atticus Finch - widowed father of Jem and Scout / respected attorney Scout Finch - narrator and main character of the novel. She likes to dress like a boy / “tomboy” Jem Finch - Scout's older brother / very protective of her. Characters cont. Boo Radley- Finch's neighbor / never comes out of the house tormented by Jem, Scout and Dill - they believe he is insane and a murderer of his family. He surprises the children in the end. Tom Robinson - middle-aged, black man who Atticus defends in court against charges of rape. Characters cont. Bob and Mayella Ewell - the town "white trash." Bob instigates trouble and stirs the town to vengeance against Tom Robinson. Dill - (Charles Baker Harris) / Mrs. Rachel’s nephew from Meridian, Mississippi / summer visitor - becomes best friends with Scout and Jem. Calpurnia – African American / cook, maid, and mother figure of the Finch Family. Characters cont. Aunt Alexandria - Atticus's nosy (yet, only looking out for the best of the children) sister. She comes to live with them in an effort to make things easier. Mrs. Dubose - neighbor who torments the children as they walk past her house. She is seen as courageous by Atticus as she fights an addiction to morphine. Group activity / intro. to TKAM Groups of 3-4 1 sheet of paper Something to write with ---Next to each statement put a “1” if you strongly agree, a “2” if you somewhat agree, a “3” if you somewhat disagree, and a “4” if you strongly disagree. ---List one reason after each. 1. All men are created equal. 2. Under our justice system, all citizens are created equal by the court system. 3. It’s okay to be different. 4. Nobody is all good, or all bad. 5. Some words are so offensive, they should never be written or stated. 6. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is true. 7. No one is above the law.