To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel written by American author Harper Lee. It was published in 1960 and brought its author a Pulitzer Prize, America's top literary award, in 1961, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom of the United States in 2007. The novel was adapted for cinema in 1962 in a movie directed by Robert Mulligan. The book has been translated into more than 40 languages and has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

Harper Lee was born in 1926 and grew up in the Southern town of Monroeville, Alabama. She studied law at the University of Alabama and was an exchange student at Oxford. She worked in New York as a ticket agent for an airline. While she was in the city, she received an unexpected Christmas present from some friends in the form of financial support for a year so that she could focus on her writing. Lee spent two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird, her only published novel.

To Kill a Mockingbird depicts three years of the life of the Finch family who live in Maycomb, a small town in Alabama. The action is set in the period of the Great Depression and the story is told by Scout Finch, a six-year old tomboy who lives with her brother Jem, and their widowed father Atticus, a prominent lawyer of the town. One summer, the two children become friends with a boy named Dill who has come to the town to live with his aunt.

Stories and rumors about one of their neighbors, the reclusive Boo Radley, whom nobody has seen in years, terrify and at the same time fascinate the three children. They become obsessed with the idea of getting him out of his spooky house. As times goes by, Scout and Jem realize that somebody has started leaving them gifts, including soap figurines of them, in the tree outside Boo's house.

Atticus is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewel, the town drunkard's daughter. Although people try to persuade him not to treat the trial seriously, Atticus does his best in defending innocent Tom. During the trial Atticus points out that Mayella, caught by her father while propositioning Tom, accuses the black man of rape in order to cover her shame. Despite significant evidence, the jury, made up only of white people, finds Tom guilty. He is sent to prison to await another trial, but he tries to escape prison and is shot.

Feeling humiliated by the evidence that Atticus revealed during the trial, Mayella's father, Bob Ewel, wants revenge. He attacks little Scout and Jem with a knife on Halloween night. Boo Radley is there to intervene and rescue the two children. He carries injured Jem home. Once she arrives home, Scout tells everybody the story and realizes that the mysterious man who has saved them was Boo. The attacker, Bob, is found dead, with a knife stubbed in his ribs. It turns out that Boo Radley has killed him, but the sheriff decides to report that Mr Ewell died by falling on his own knife. Scout walks Boo home and imagines life from his perspective.

Although Lee said To Kill a Mockingbird is not an autobiography, she based her novel on the recollections of her childhood spent in the Southern town of Monroeville. However, there are a few autobiographical elements in the book. Atticus Finch is modeled after Lee's father who, as a lawyer, defended two black men in 1919. Little Scout is apparently modeled after herself as a child. Scout's friend Dill was inspired by Harper Lee's childhood friend, American author and comedian Truman Capote.

The themes of the novel are racial injustice, destruction of innocence, courage and social inequality. The main victim of racial injustice is the physically impaired Tom Robinson who, despite clear evidence which proved his innocence, is found guilty of rape. Courage is presented in different forms throughout the novel, from Scout fighting her classmates who insult her father, to Atticus facing a raging mob in order to protect Tom Robinson.

The "mockingbird" in the title is said to be a symbol representing the idea of innocence. Thus to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence. A number of characters like Jem, Tom Robinson, Dill and Boo Radley can be considered mockingbirds, innocent people injured or destroyed by evil.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Understanding To Kill a Mockingbird: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historic Documents
Claudia Durst Johnson.
Greenwood Press, 1994
More Than One Way to (Mis)Read a Mockingbird
Murray, Jennifer.
The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. 43, No. 1, Fall 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Female Voice in 'To Kill a Mockingbird': Narrative Strategies in Film and Novel
Shackelford, Dean.
The Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 1, Winter 1996
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender
Jerilyn Fisher; Ellen S. Silber.
Greenwood Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "'Just a Lady': Gender and Power in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird" begins on p. 286
General Semantics in to Kill a Mockingbird
Kasper, Annie.
ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, Vol. 63, No. 3, July 2006
Panopticism and the Use of "The Other" in to Kill a Mockingbird
Best, Rebecca H.
The Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 3-4, Summer-Fall 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Strange Career of Atticus Finch
Crespino, Joseph.
Southern Cultures, Vol. 6, No. 2, Summer 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Redemption of Atticus Finch
.
Southern Cultures, Vol. 6, No. 4, Winter 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Rape, Incest, and Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird': On Alabama's Legal Construction of Gender and Sexuality in the Context of Racial Subordination
Halpern, Iris.
Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 18, No. 3, Fall 2009
Prolepsis and Anachronism: Emmet till and the Historicity of to Kill a Mockingbird
Chura, Patrick.
The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. 32, No. 2, Spring 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The View from the Porch: Race and the Limits of Empathy in the Film to Kill a Mockingbird
Watson, Rachel.
The Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. 63, No. 3-4, Summer-Fall 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Integrating Government and Literature: Mock Civil and Criminal Trials Based on to Kill A Mockingbird
Kumler, Lori; Palchick, Rina.
Social Education, Vol. 72, No. 4, May-June 2008
Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & to Kill a Mockingbird (2011)
Oxoby, Marc C.
Film & History, Vol. 42, No. 2, Fall 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Banned in the U.S.A: A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries
Herbert N. Foerstel.
Greenwood Press, 2002 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: "To Kill a Mockingbird" begins on p. 233
Opposing Censorship in the Public Schools: Religion, Morality, and Literature
June Edwards.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
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