The book "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a classic novel written by Harper Lee. It follows a young girl named Jean-Louise Finch or "Scout" and her life in Maycomb County, Alabama. The author, Harper Lee, originally intended for it to be a simple story and it is now considered a classic piece of American literature.
Harper Lee is the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird". She was born April 29th, in the year of 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She lived in Monroeville alongside her 4 siblings, all of them older, and her mother and her father, who, like Atticus Finch from her novel, was a lawyer. Harper originally intended to be a lawyer like her father but dropped out of law school to become a writer. She went to Oxford and produced "To Kill a Mockingbird". She also went on to write on other novel called "Go Set a Watchman". She recently passed away on February 19th, 2016 in the same city she was born in.
The viewpoint of this story is that of Jean-Louise Finch, also known as Scout. It's written in the first-person. She shares her thoughts openly throughout the whole story as well as hers and her companions actions. Scout starts out the book young, not knowing all that much about the world and throughout the book slowly grows and matures, learning more about how the world works as she goes. By the end, she's not the same innocent kid she was in the beginning but still has some of that childish personality every kid has.
The genre of this book is "Bildungsroman". Bildungsroman signifies a novel about the development, maturing and education of a character, who is generally young in bildungsroman novels. It's an uncommon genre and isn't seen often. As "To Kill a Mockingbird" follows Scout Finch from a young age to a few years later, showing you her development and change in maturity: Making bildungsroman a fitting genre.
Jean-Louise "Scout" Finch
Jean-Louise Finch, known more commonly throughout the book as "Scout", is one of two children in her family. She lives in Maycomb County, Alabama -much like the author- where she's free to be her tomboy self. She's the youngest in the family but you don't see her treated that way until further into the book when her brother grows older. Scout is six years of age at the beginning of the novel. She's a playful girl who thinks the world is just like it is for them everywhere else. She's innocent and uneducated on the ways of the world, -which is the way it should be for a girl her age- so much that her biggest fear at the time is walking by "Boo" Radley's house. As the book progresses and Scout grows older she's exposed to many different things, each slowly maturing her and taking away her childhood innocence and unknowings about the world. However, she still is a kid and still has a delightful, fun personality. She always seems to have a "glass half-full" way of thinking.
Jem Atticus Finch is the older sibling in the Finch family. He's four years older than his sister Scout but, unlike most siblings, still enjoys being around her for a good portion of the book. As Jem is older, he matures much quicker than most of the other characters. He quickly grows out of "childish" games and starts to grow apart from his sister. Even though he's older, he still cares strongly about his sister, as well as the rest of the family, which shows what kind of kid he is. He's always showing courage and takes pride in a lot of the stuff he does.
Atticus Finch is a single parent to Jem and Scout. He was born at Finch's Landing and when he was older moved to Maycomb County to become a lawyer. He went on to marry Jem and Scouts mother, who passed away when Scout was very young; which is why not known is much about her, Scout doesn't have any memories of her. Atticus went on to raise and care strongly for his children throughout their years and raises them to be like as much like himself as possible, teaching them his motifs and ways. Unlike most of the population at the time, Atticus is a supporter of equality and fights for what he believes to the very end.
Charles Baker "Dill" Harris
Charles Baker Harris is a friend of Jems and Scouts "future husband". He's introduces himself early on as "Dill". He's not from Maycomb, but has an Aunt who lives there who he visits each summer. He's older than Scout but younger than Jem, although he's a very small boy. Much like Scout, he's very playful, as well as immature. He's also quite emotional.
Calpurnia is the Finch family's housemaid and also a "mother-figure" to Jem and Scout. Atticus met her at Finchs landing and then took her back to his house to work for him and his family. She has played a big part in raising Jem and Scout and takes care of them when Atticus is away. Unlike most dark skinned men and women of her time, she is very educated. She leads two different lives: Around the Finch family and other white men and women she's a respectful, literate woman. However, when she's around other dark skinned people, she changes her tone and acts quite differently, still with the same respect of course, -she's a good person- but her tone changes and she speaks differently.
Historical Context and Background
Throughout "To Kill a Mockingbird", there are many references to real life events.
First of all, there are many references to the dust bowl, which happened at the same time as the book took place. The biggest historical reference (in my opinion) is the one to the Scottsboro Boys Trial. The Tom Robinson case is a black man who was falsely accused of rape and assault by a white man (Bob Ewell) and his daughter (Mayella Ewell) after he himself was put into an uncomfortable situation with Mayella. The Scottsboro Boys were nine young black men/teenagers who were assaulted on a train and then fought back. The boys won the fight and so the white men who assaulted them went to the sheriff and said they had been assaulted. When the train was stopped and the black men brought into custody, two women who were on the train said that the black men had raped them. Just like in the book, there was medical evidence that these crimes hadn't been committed, but the men were imprisoned or sentenced to death anyways, due to inequality at the time. The same happened to Tom Robinson in the book, and like most of the Scottsboro boys he tried to escape, but unlike the Scottsboro boys, didn't get very far.
Exposition: Here we're introduced to the main characters (Scout, Jem, etc..)and Scout begins to tell the story of hers and her families journey through the years of the case and her childhood.
Rising Action: The Tom Robinson case begins, with Atticus defending Tom. Scout and Jem learn more about things like how everything works, as well as Boo Radley.
Climax: Tom Robinson is found to be guilty. Scout, Jem and Dill learn that Boo Radley isn't a monster and is an okay person who just doesn't want to attract attention. They mature a lot at this point.
Falling Action: At this point in the story Tom Robinson is shot and killed trying to escape. Jem and Scout are attacked by Bob Ewell and are rescued by Boo. Bob Ewell is killed.
Resolution: The sheriff Heck Tate doesn't put Boo up for trial and makes up a story about him falling on his knife, killing himself. Scout talks to Boo for the first time, becoming friends with him. The story ends, as she has finished telling the story about how her brothers arm broke.
Courage: Throughout the book, many people display courage. An example would be Atticus taking the Tom Robinson case. Being a defendant for a black man is one thing, but actually believing him and openly saying that you're support him and want him freed is not something people support. Atticus had a lot of hate shot his way, but continued to do what he believed. Another example would be when Jem and Scout were attacked by Bob Ewell. Jem risked his life defending his sister and was willing to give himself up to help his sister, telling her to run to safety and get away from Bob while he distracted him.
Social Inequality: Like most cities and towns, Maycomb County has a hierarchy. Throughout the novel you learn who sits where and why they're there. Atticus and his family, as well as his surrounding neighbors and more distant relatives are close to the top of the hierarchy. They live a relatively simple life with decent homes and enough food to keep everyone happy and Atticus, unlike a lot of people at the time, has a job. Below them would be people like the Cunninghams. They're poor but get along well on what they have using their farm. At the bottom of the hierarchy would be people like the Ewells, living in a dump and living off of government checks -which gets used for alcohol for the drunken father, Bob.
Co-existence of good and evil: In the beginning of the novel, Scout is a very innocent girl who hasn't encountered evil, therefore believing everything is good in the world. As she grows older, she encounters more and more evil, and less good. Due to these encounters, Scout has to accept the evil and learn to co-exist with it. Atticus, however, has already seen his share of evil and knows how to live with it, making him a good role model for Scout. Since Atticus still believes in good, Scout follows his thoughts and even after everything she's seen at her young age, still sees good in people the world.
Small-town living: The book taking place is a small town like Maycomb has a large part in the novel. The slow-paced lifestyle they live makes everything much more interesting and different. Small towns usually don't have big cases like what they had in the book. Small towns also often have their own beliefs and ways of life, making the story and characters more unique, especially since some people are starting to stray from what's normal and are taking on their own beliefs.
Gothic Details: The gothic details in the story are great for setting the tone and surprising people later on. They add drama and tension to the story, making you wonder how things are going to happen.
The biggest symbol in the book is the Mockingbird. There are countless references to them throughout the novel. Atticus explains at one point in the book that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. He says so because mockingbirds don't do anything to harm anyone, so they don't deserve to be harmed themselves. When he says it he's referencing Tom Robinson, who's losing his freedom for no reason. They also make quotes throughout the book about "flying free", another reference to Toms wrongful accusation.
Boo Radley is another symbol in the book. He signifies children's imaginations and wild thoughts and how they change as the child grows older and become more realistic. Boo is a symbol of change and imagination, as well as kindness and courage.