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In Search of the Novel: Ten Novels

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Synopsis

Scout Finch recalls three years of her childhood during the Depression in Maycomb, Alabama, beginning the summer before first grade. She lives with her older brother Jem and their lawyer father, Atticus, a widower. That summer they find a new friend named Dill Harris, whose interest in stirring up drama leads the children to try to entice the town bogeyman, Boo Radley, to come out. Meanwhile, a drama affecting the adults begins as Mayella Ewell, the daughter of an often-drunk, violent white farmer, accuses Tom Robinson, an African American, of rape. Atticus is called on to defend the accused while Scout and Jem struggle to understand issues of prejudice and justice. The two dramas intersect as one person is killed, Jem’s arm is broken, and Boo Radley does indeed come out.

Reviews

Harper Lee’s first and probably only novel tells many stories, principally the story of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her family during a particularly significant period in her life and in the life of American race relations. According to Frank H. Lyell, “Harper Lee writes with gentle affection, rich humor, and deep understanding of small-town family life in Alabama” (“One-Taxi Town,” The New York Times Book Review, July 10, 1960, p. 5). “The style is bright and straightforward; the unaffected young narrator uses adult language to render the matter she deals with, but the point of view is cunningly restricted to that of a perceptive, independent child,” according to Richard Sullivan (“Engrossing First Novel of Rare Excellence,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, July 17, 1960, p. 1). Another reviewer comments that the story is “dominated by [Scout’s] complete love and devotion for her father and older brother, her admiration for a boy her own age [the real-life young Truman Capote], her acceptance of Negroes as fellow human beings with the same rights and privileges as those of white people, and her hatred of all hypocrisy . . .” (Nick Aaron Ford, The Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture, 1961, Atlanta University, PHYLON, Vol. XXII, June 1961)

Web Sites

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    This page includes a note to teachers about the book, questions for class discussion, and topics for writing and research projects.
    http://files.harpercollins.com/OMM/to_kill_a_mockingbird.html
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: The Student Survival Guide
    An annotated guide to Lee's novel, containing more than 400 definitions for words, idioms, and allusions found in the text.
    http:/www.lausd.k12.ca.us/Belmont_HS/tkm
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: Then and Now
    This Web site was created by the Prince William Network in honor of the 35th anniversary of the release of the Academy Award–winning film To Kill a Mockingbird. It contains primary source documents, lesson plans, and student work.
    http://library.thinkquest.org/12111/
  • Monroe County (Alabama) Heritage Museum
    Information on the museum's exhibits on To Kill a Mockingbird and Truman Capote.
    http://www.tokillamockingbird.com

 

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