To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee
About the Book
What is To Kill a Mockingbird about?
Why is it a significant text?
How did people respond to it?
What inspired Harper Lee to write it?
Title
To Kill a Mockingbird
Author
Harper Lee
an American novelist best known for
her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird
The novel was praised for its sensitive treatment of a child’s awakening to racism and prejudice in the American South.
It is set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression (1929–39)
The protagonist is Jean Louise (“Scout”) Finch, an intelligent though the unconventional girl who ages from six to nine years old during the course of the novel.
She is raised with her brother, Jeremy Atticus (“Jem”), by their widowed father, Atticus Finch. He is a prominent lawyer who encourages his children to be empathetic and just.
He notably tells them that it is “a sin to kill a mockingbird,” alluding to the fact that the birds are innocent and harmless.
When Tom Robinson, one of the town’s Black residents, is falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman, Atticus agrees to defend him despite threats from the community.
Although Atticus presents a defense that gives a more plausible interpretation of the evidence—that Mayella was attacked by her father, Bob Ewell—Tom is convicted, and he is later killed while trying to escape custody. A character compares his death to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds.
The children, meanwhile, play out their own miniaturized drama. Scout and Jem become especially interested in the town recluse, Arthur (“Boo”) Radley, who interacts with them by leaving them small gifts in a tree.
On Halloween, when Bob Ewell tries to attack Scout and Jem, Boo intervenes and saves them. Boo ultimately kills Ewell. The sheriff, however, decides to tell the community that Ewell’s death was an accident.
Scout agrees, noting that to do otherwise would be “sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird.”
It is widely believed that Harper Lee based the character of Atticus Finch on her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, a compassionate and dedicated lawyer.
The plot was reportedly inspired in part by his unsuccessful defense of two African American men—a father and a son—accused of murdering a white storekeeper.
The fictional character of Charles Baker (“Dill”) Harris also has a real-life counterpart. Dill is based on the author Truman Capote, Lee’s childhood friend and next-door neighbour in Monroeville, Alabama.
There is some anecdotal evidence that the town recluse, Arthur (“Boo”) Radley, was based on Lee and Capote’s childhood neighbour, Son Boulware.
The book was published in 1960, just before
the peak of the American civil rights movement.
Initial critical responses to the novel were mixed.
Many critics praised Lee for her sensitive treatment
of a child’s awakening to racism and prejudice.
Some reviewers argued that the narrative voice was unconvincing.
In its first year it sold about 500,000 copies. A year
after the publication of the novel, Lee was awarded
a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Since its publication in 1960, the novel has been translated into some 40 languages and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.
A staple on American high- school reading lists, the novel has inspired numerous stage and film adaptations, the most notable of which was the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.
Lee’s novel continues to resonate with audiences today; in 2018 a stage adaptation of the novel debuted to rave reviews on Broadway.
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