Harper Lee , the author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for the novel “To kill a mocking bird”. Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, in the south west of Alabama. She is the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Finch Lee. Harper Lee attended Huntingdon College 1944-45, studied law at University of Alabama 1945-49, and studied one year at Oxford University. Her fathers occupation was law. This relates to “To kill a mocking bird” since scout’s father, Atticus Finch, was also a lawyer.
It creates an effect of a fictional autobiography because it contains elements of fiction and autobiography. She was the youngest in her family this is also part of putting elements of her life into a book. The book was written in 1957 and published in 1961. This was at the time of the Martin Luther King and Malcolm X movement who were fighting for racial equality. The novel has no fixed genre, this is what makes it such an interesting and refreshing novel, since it keeps changing it’s genre. In the 1930’s the state of Alabama, racism was still present in large numbers.
There was a segregation between blacks and whites. Black people had to go to black schools, to black churches, and live in certain areas. This all relates to the American civil war. A war between the Northern Union and the Southern Confederacy. The North were abolitionists, they wanted to abolish slavery since industrialism and machines, but the southern slavery based economy were against it. It soon escalated into political rivalry then into a civil war. The north were superior to the south in numbers and resources. The south held the north at bay with military tactics of Robert E.
Lee. Through pass of time the south ran out of resources and territory and soon surrendered. Slavery was abolished throughout the whole of America. Most southerners disagreed with that and still believed that whites where superior to coloureds and created a racial segregation. Racism wasn’t the only problem in the south. There was also prejudice against women and class prejudice. In the book one of the main examples of prejudice is Boo Radley because he always kept to himself. This links to Maycomb because it is a narrow minded town and always judge people before they get to know them.
Maycomb is a fictional town set in non-fictional Alabama. It is an inward looking town ruled by gossip, superstition and racism. It would be difficult to change such a narrow minded town since that rarely visitors come, so there is hardly changes and if someone decides to make changes, a perfect example would be Atticus defending Tom Robinson, the town would get furious and think of it as an outrage. This is why it is very difficult to start doing changes in a town like Maycomb. The main themes of the book are changes and growing up.
It all starts when we learn about Maycomb through Scout’s eyes. We then learn about other characters such as the Cunninghams, and we learn about how they farming business ruined since the Wall Street Crash. ” The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers and the crash hit them hardest. ” We also learn about the Ewells the “disgrace of Maycomb for three generations” whom are putting Tom Robinson on trial. We also learn about Arthur “Boo” Radly, around whom a lot of theme’s of prejudice are involved. The novel is written in first person from scout’s perspective.
It is an effective method since scout is a little girl learning about her surroundings and about the town, the reader learns with her. With scouts learning and discoveries we get a three hundred and sixty degrees perspective about the town and the society at the time. We see the novel mainly through scouts young and innocent eyes. When it was snowing in Maycomb scout thought the world was ending “The world’s ending, Atticus! Please do something” Scout has never seen snow and therefore she thought something dreadful was about to happen.
Scout doesn’t know everything and somethings she can’t figure out, but to help her Atticus always explains things to her which also enlightens us with valuable resources and knowledge. Scout uses at sometimes American dialogue such as “shinny”, which was another term for alcohol. There is also the way of talking the black community of Maycomb used. ” I wan’ts to know why you bringin’ white chillun to a nigger church. ” This is another way of showing that black people never received good education because of segregation.
The novel is structured in two parts one part focuses on children’s games and Boo Radley and part two focuses on “adult games” of Tom Robinson’s trial. Harper Lee uses various literacy techniques to create and atmosphere and a detailed description of characters. Scout is a perfect example she employs similes when describing a character such as Dill ” His hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duckfluff”. Another example is about about miss Maudie’s sun hat “Miss maudie’s sunhat was suspended in a thin layer of ice, like a fly in amber.
Harper Lee also uses personification when describing areas and objects “Maycomb is a tired old town” she is trying to imply that Maycomb has been around for a long time. “The remains of a picket drunkenly guarded the front yard” This implies that the picket was not standing straight. Harper Lee also uses language that seems absolutely normal but has an internal meaning ” Alexandra, Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants too” This Implies that Atticus has a strong and honest sense of leadership against racism and prejudice.
Harper Lee uses metaphors as well such as in this quote of her describing Walter Cunningham “Walter looked like as he had been raised on fish food; his eyes, as blue as Dill Harri’s, were red-skimmed and watery” This is a detailed metaphor to describe Walter. Humour is also used, often regarding Scout’s innocence and how it contrasts with tragedy. “Don’t you believe in foot-washing? We do. At home in the bathtub” this shows that Scout is not sure what people mean so she speaks what she thinks, this creates a sense of humour.
Another few ways she uses humour is in this quote “The worlds endin’, Atticus please do something” This shows that her innocence is very humerous due to her understanding, she never seen snow so she thought the world would end when it started snowing. In “To kill a mockingbird” a lot of symbolism is employed, one example is Tom Robinson, the quote They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us, that’s why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird” this implies that Tom Robinson did not do anything but he gets convicted, and killed which is a sin.
Towards Boo Radley symbolism is also employed. One is from when they describe Boo’s house “their roots reached out into the side roads” this symbolizes Boo trying to reach out of isolation. One other good use of symbolism is when Atticus guards the door , a mob arrives wanting to hurt Tom Robinson and Scout runs towards Atticus “I pushed my way through dark smelly bodies and burst into the circle of light’ This is trying to imply that the mob is evil like demons, and the burst of like surrounding Atticus makes him look like an angel, in comparison to the demons surrounding him.
In the town of Maycomb one can see that the white community still felt superior to black people. One can see that black people didn’t get education because of segregation in the chapter when Jem and Scout go to Calpurnia’s chuch. “Cal, I whispered, where are the hymn-books? ‘we don’t have any” This shows that the black community did not receive reasonable education. Before the Tom Robinson case started when Atticus wanted to defend Tom Robinson him and his children where called “nigger-lover”, this shows a sign of racism in the community, also what mrs.
Dubose said to Jem “What has this come to when a Finch goes against his raising” This statement implies that even if slavery was abolished, people where still taught that white’s would be superior, this is an act of racism. Aunt Alexandra was also a sterotype in the Maycomb community. According to Scout “Aunt Alexandra fitted into the world of Maycomb like a hand into a glove”. This shows that her stereotype behaviour and gossiping habbits remained. But Alexandra is not nice towards Calpurnia “Put my bag in the front bedroom Calpurnia” Alexandra was ordering Calpurnia around like a slave when she is actually a servant.
The Finches are a white middle class society. Scout’s father is a lawyer, a respectable high profiled job. His brother Jack Finch studied medicine, as we can see the Finch family have middle-class income occupations. Aunt Alexandra is obsessed with teaching the Finch children about their superior backround “Being southerners, it was a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings.
This supports the idea that Alexandra wanted to prevent shame from being upon her family which makes her partially racist. Scout is also prejudice towards Walter Cunningham, when they invite him to have lunch with them Scout says “He would have probably have poured it into his milk glass had I not asked him what sam hill he was doing” This shows that everyone has a different way of eating, but scout never seen Walter’s so she was prejudice to him, she wanted him to eat like she did. The Cunninghams are farmers whom “the crash hit them hardest”.
Since they could not make enough money to repay the money to Atticus so he repays him by giving him what he posses on harvest, “Because that’s the only he can pay me. He has no money. ” This shows that even if he has no money, Mr. Cunningham sticks to his word by repaying Atticus with every means necessary. Different people were put into different classes. It all depended on how rich or poor you were or the job you had or the colour of your skin. The Finch family was at the top of the class and the Robinson’s’ were at the bottom. The Whites at the top and the Negroes at the bottom.
In the trial for Tom Robinson we found out that Tom helped out Mayella with some of her chores because he felt sorry for her. This wasn’t the best thing to say because why would a Negro feel sorry for a white person. Every class should look down on the class below it. The Ewells however where below the white society as “white trash” such as Boris Ewell “his neck was dark grey, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his finger-nails were black sheep into the quick” this shows that the Ewell household is messy and the father doesn’t care what happens to his children.
Atticus said that ” The Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations” This shows the caste system that is present in Maycomb because there is little to change “they took for granted attitudes, character shading, even gestures, as having been repeated in each generation and refined by by time” Their society rule governed and had accepted social conventions of behavious. Hierachy meant that Tom should not have felt sorry for Mayella. People were categorized in terms of their presumptions about family groups or class, rather than seeing each person as ab individual.
There is also sexual prejudice in ‘To Kill a Mocking Birdi?? , for example Scout has to wear a dress to school and has to accompany the ladies of Maycomb for their weekly gathering. However, Jem does not have to be present. The appearance of females is one particular view that Harper Lee projected to me as the reader. This is because the women all have the same routines and all have well kept appearances. The females are very feminine and stereotypical and never question their roles. (“Why don’t people like Miss Maudie sit on the bench? asks Scout. There is no hint at a woman being part of the jury. ) Miss Maudie has also a different perspective towards religion.
All the women in Maycomb go to church every Sunday, but miss Maudie doesn’t. Miss Maudie describes that “sometimes the bible in the hands of one is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hands of-oh your father” With this quote she is trying to imply that even if Atticus would be drunk, he would be more sane than a sober priest. She also says that Boo Radley’s father was a foot-washing Baptist. Foot-washers believe anything that’s pleasure is a sin” so foot-washer Baptists cursed her for caring too much for flowers. Aunt Alexandra wanted too teach scout to stop being a tomboy and behave like a lady, as she is supposed to behave.
“I could do nothing in a dress” this symbolizes how difficult it is to be a women in a prejudice society. Boo Radley was a victim of prejudice. Since he doesn’t show himself, rumours started building up. Such as in this quote” Boo bit it off when he couldn’t find any cats and squirrels to eat. This quote suggests that the time Boo was locked up they thought he became a barbaric animal.
It all started with gossip then to rumours then to superstition, “When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. ” This shows that he was feared so much by rumours the community became supersticious about him. Miss Maudie had different views on religion snce some foot-washing Baptist passed her house ” and passed by this place and told me, me and my flowers were going to hell” This shows that they where very strict on religion, and Miss Maudie wasn’t.
Miss Maudie has also a sense of tolerance “She loved everything that grew in God’s earth, even the weeds” this shows a sign of tolerance. People where also prejudice against her because she was a widow, and as a widow she had to stay inside her house and grief over her husband, she didn’t she spent more time outside in her garden. “Miss Maudie hated her house: time spent indoors was time wasted” This shows that she is not like other women who would stay indoors. There is also prejudice in the Atticus family, between his relatives.
At the Christmas family reunion, family members where not so keen to Atticus, Jem and Scout. After talking to Francis, Scout’s cousin, he made offensive insults to her father which got Scout really furious” “it aint you fault. I guess it aint your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover. ” This shows that it is very hard to even change the tolerance of the own family, and Atticus is the first in his family, or maybe the only one to defend a black person. Dolphis Raymond is also a victim of prejudice.
He is a white man married to a black woman and lives with her and his children. He’s got a coloured wife and all sorts of mixed chillun” he shows tolerance and is isolated because people in maycomb disapprove of black and white mixing. “Coloured folks won’t have them because they’re half white; white folks won’t have ’em ’cause they’re coloured,” this shows that they don’t belong anywhere in a community such as Maycomb. There are solutions to beat prejudice, one of them is Atiicus’s maxim “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”.
It shows that to understand a person or how he feels one needs to see things from their perspective. One way how Harper Lee challenges sterotypes is in the relationship of blacks and white by comparing the Ewells residence with the blacks residence. At the Ewells it is raw place, it is behind the city garbage dump, which tells us that ironically they are white trash. “the Ewells gave the dump a thorough gleaning everyday” this shows that the Ewells where so poor and miserably low in life that they lived behind a dump, and searched the garbage thoroughly to scavenge some items that might be of use.
Now to compare it to the blacks residence” In the frosty December dusk, their cabins looked neat and snug with pale blue smoke rising from the fires inside. ” This shows that the black people where more civilized, a person would think that Bob Ewell would be more civilized that the black community but Harper Lee changed it the other way around to challenge prejudice. The book has relevance to our modern society today, because we can all learn from the book of justice and equal opportunities, if we follow Atticus’s symbol.
There is still racism present yet not as much as there used to be. There where fights and struggles for justice, mainly from the Martin Luther King and Malcolm X movement who fought for racial equality in America. Stereotypes are intolerant and are unfair towards other people, this causes prejudism which then leads to in-justice. Harper Lee’s message is still applicable today, if we teach the over all message of Atticus’s maxim to the next generations we could reduce prejudice actions from taking place.