To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

A young girl and her father challenge racial opinions in the South.

Mockingbirds don't do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corn cribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

A novel that is still relevant today, To Kill a Mockingbird tackles the subject of the imbalance of racial standards in the judicial system. The novel has received praise as a source of inspiration and continues annually to be a big seller, despite being published over 50 years ago.

Set in America during the Great Depression era, the story takes a topic which is hard-hitting and makes it inviting as it comes from the perspective of a curious young girl, Scout. The reader learns with her about the world around her and comes to understand the views and attitudes of her society. Scout and Jem’s father is the widowed lawyer Atticus Finch who is requested to defend a local black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of rape. Atticus accepts the case, much to the town’s disapproval.

The case causes anger in the community with attempts at lynching Tom and scorn towards the Finch family. As the trial progresses, Atticus finds himself up against the whole town in an attempt to defend Tom, will they listen to reason or will their prejudice cloud their judgement?

To Kill a Mockingbird takes the reader through the process of a trial without bombarding them with complicated legal jargon. The characters of the Finch family are relatable both through their strong morals and family dynamic. The novel appeals to a wide range of readers due to its accessible writing style and its diverse cast of characters. It has a profound ability to leave you questioning and is a plot that you are sure to remember.

It’s a book that lends itself as an ideal focal point for discussions due to its strong political themes as well as its subtle nuances. The way in which Lee incorporates the aspects of childhood makes it appealing for younger as well as older readers and Scout is a perfect central character as her yearning to be mature, coupled with her bold personality, lead her to ask questions that we as the reader want to know.

The novel is hugely influenced by Lee’s own life from the basis of the characters, the names used, setting, to aspects of the plot. Why do you think that Lee chose to incorporate so much of her own experiences into the novel?

Why do you think that Lee chose to have Scout and Atticus as the focal points of the novel as opposed to Tom Robinson?

The setting of the novel is the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, believed to have been based on Lee’s hometown of Monroeville. Do you think that the novel would function in a different setting and why do you think Lee chose to use a fictional town rather than a real one?

Who do you believe the main antagonist of the novel to be? Bob Ewell? Mayella Ewell? Or are they representative of a different antagonist?

Why do you think Tom chose try and escape rather than trust that Atticus would be able to overturn the sentence?

Compare the characters of Mayella Ewell and Scout, what do they say about the power of women during this time? Do you think the novel makes a statement about the standards of women?

What is the significance of the character of Dill in the novel? What does his relationship with Scout tell us about Scout and how she interacts with people in her age group?

How do you think the title links with the novel?

The subject of racism is deeply rooted in the novel but what other issues do you think the novel spotlights? Give examples from the text.

Why do you think Lee chose to keep the character of Boo Radley hidden until the climatic ending?


Atticus doesn’t want the children present at the trial, however, both Scout and Jem attend. The victim is a local white girl, Mayella Ewell, who with her father, Bob Ewell, attempts to convict Tom. The Ewell family are known to have little respect in the community with the father being a famous drunk.

During the course of the trial it is revealed that Mayella made advances toward Tom who refused and couldn’t be guilty of the claims due to his physical disability. It is suggested that her father witnessed her attempts and beat her as a result; however, the jury sentence Tom all the same.

Scout has mistrust in the community as a result of the trial, while Atticus is resolute that he can have the verdict overturned. Much to his dismay, Tom attempts to flee prison and is fatally shot in the process. The Ewell family suffered more ousting from the town as a result of the trial which leads Bob Ewell to be furious with Atticus, vowing to take revenge. He makes an attempt to attack Scout and Jem as they walk home; however, the previously unseen Boo Radley intervenes, resulting in a brawl. Boo succeeds in subduing Mr Ewell, and carries Scout home. They later find out that Bob Ewell has died as a result of a knife wound, with Atticus initially believing Scout to be responsible. Ultimately the police officer decides to report that Bob Ewell fell on his own knife.

The novel was originally going to be called ‘Atticus’.

The basis for the character of Atticus Finch was Harper Lee’s own father who was a lawyer.

The sequel Go Set a Watchman was originally the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Finch was Lee’s mother’s maiden name.

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