Sunday, October 28, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel you read, and explain how the narrative fulfills the author's purpose (based on your well-informed interpretation of same).

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee takes place in the sleepy town of Maycomb in Alabama during the middle of the Great Depression. Scott Finch and her brother, Jem, live with their widowed father, Atticus, a respected Lawyer. One summer a boy named Dill came to stay in Maycomb and he, Scott, and Jem became quick friends. Dill takes a special interest with the neighborhood “haunted house” called the Radley Place. The Radley Place is owned by Nathan Radley and is occupied by his brother Arthur, better known as “Boo”, who rarely goes outside the house.
            As summer turned to fall Scout found herself at school for the first time and found it to be horrible. Over the school year she and Jem find little gifts in the knothole of a tree on the Radley property. Again as summer came around again so did Dill. The tree become absolutely fascinated with Boo Radley to the point they believe it would be a good idea to sneak into the Radley Place. They are quickly driven off by Nathan but not before Jem manages to lose his pants. As summer turned to fall and fall to winter Scout and Jem go back to school and continue to find gifts, which include Jem’s pants now mended, in the knothole but the knothole is then filled with cement by Nathan. Jem tells Atticus of the presents and his mended pants, convinced it was Boo.
            As summer rolls around again a new issue arises in Maycomb, a colored man by the name of Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white woman. Atticus decides that he will defend Tom in court causing the town to look down upon the family. Dill joins the group again this time, however, he had run away to Maycomb. The night before the trial a mob attempts to kill Tom before his trial can start. Atticus faces down the mob but Scout is the one that disburses it when her polite questioning shames the leader of the mob. At the trial it became clear that Tom was innocent, Mayella and her father, the accusers, had made the story up. Mayella propositioned Tom and was caught by her father who proceeded to beat Mayella. The all-white jury quickly convicts Tom, sentencing to prison. Tom is later shot while attempting to escape.
            Despite winning the court case the father, Bob Ewell, feels that Atticus made a fool of him and vows revenge. Bob eventually ends up attacking Jem and Scout on their way home from a Halloween party. Jem and Scout are protected by Boo who kills Bob. Boo is protected by the sheriff and the matter is excused. After awhile Boo disappears, once again, into the Radley Place leaving Scout with a feeling of what life is like for Boo. The author’s purpose is clear throughout the narrative, to show how innocence can be so easily destroy by the evils around us.
2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel. Avoid cliches.

The most prominent theme of To Kill a Mockingbird is the destruction of the innocent by evil. Throughout the novel several characters can be described as Mockingbirds, innocent people who are injured or destroyed by evil they came in contact with. “…it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

3. Describe the author's tone. Include a minimum of three excerpts that illustrate your point(s).

The tone of To Kill a Mockingbird can most easily be explained as naïve. The novel is described through the eyes of Scout and it gives a child’s perspective of rather serious topics and ideals.

“’Are we poor, Atticus?’” (pg 21) Scout and Jem do not understand the economic troubles of the time. To them it is a simple matter, even maybe a trivial one. The fact that this question was dismissed with a simple answer shows that Scout and Jem are particularly naïve when it comes to the issues of “adults”.

“’Jem’ I asked, ‘what’s a mixed child?’” (pg 161) Scout doesn’t understand the culture’s ideas about race and color. She doesn’t see the difference between people and only has what others tell her to go off of.

“Hey Mr. Cunningham.” (pg 153) Scout breaks up a mob that was ready to lynch Tom, but not purposefully. When she finds herself in the middle of the mob she makes small talk with the one familiar person in the mob. This quickly defuses the mob and they leave but Scout still doesn’t understand what happened. To her she was just being polite.

4. Describe a minimum of ten literary elements/techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the author's purpose, the text's theme and/or your sense of the tone. For each, please include textual support to help illustrate the point for your readers. (Please include edition and page numbers for easy reference.)

·      Symbolism – “…it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (pg 98) Mockingbirds refer to the innocent that are consumed by evil. Examples of “mockingbirds” are Tom, Scout, and Boo.
·      Foreshadowing – “It was Miss Stephanie’s pleasure to tell us: this morning Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life.” This is predicting Bob’s impending attack on Scout and Jem as well as his death at the hands of Boo.
·      Point-of-view – “Scout’s yonder’s been readin’ ever since she was born, and she ain’t even started school.” (pg 7) Scout as the novel’s narrator adds a lot to the novel. It shows the view of the culture and time period through the eyes of someone who hasn’t fully experienced it yet and isn’t fully influenced by it.
·      Personification – “The fire was well into the second floor and had eaten its way into the roof: window frames were black against a vivid orange center.” The fire is offered as a threat and the personification of its description adds to it threatening appearance.
·      Hyperbole – “’Fore a while’ in Maycomb meant anything from three days to thirty years.” (pg 145) This exaggeration of time helps to illustrate the slow ability of Maycomb to adopt progressive ideals.
·      Alliteration – “…starched shirt, the soft-sound of his breathing.” (pg 152) Throughout the novel repeated letters, in this case “s”, are used to slur sentences together. This helps the novel to flow more smoothly.
·      Theme – “’You ain’t got no business  bringin’ white chillun here – they got their church, we got our’n. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?’” (pg 119) Racism is a reoccurring theme in the novel that lends quite a lot to the overall plot. The fact that Atticus overcomes the general racist sentiment to help Tom ends up being one of the main points in the novel.
·      Metaphor – “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.” (pg 36) This is similar to a common saying we have now, “You don’t know a man till you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” but I don’t think Atticus is telling Scout to tear someone’s skin off.
·      Figurative Language – “The Radley place fascinated Dill. In spite of our warnings it drew him as the moon draws water…” (pg 8) Harper Lee uses figurative language throughout the novel to help the reader envision the events of the novel.
·      Conflict – “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” (pg 102) The conflict during the majority of the novel is a social one. Scout and Jem watch as Atticus fights against racism but in the end ultimately fails.

1. Describe two examples of direct characterization and two examples of indirect characterization.  Why does the author use both approaches, and to what end (i.e., what is your lasting impression of the character as a result)?


“When I was six and Jem was nearly ten…” (pg 6) Quick establishment of the two main character’s ages. It help explains the narrator’s view of the world because of her age.
“Being Southerners…” (pg 1) This helps to establish the ancestry of the characters and the setting of the novel. (I have to admit, there really wasn’t that much direct characterization.)


“’Shoot no wonder, then,’ said Jem, jerking his thumb at me. ‘Scout yonder’s been readin’ ever since she was born, and she ain’t even started school yet.’” (pg 7) This sets up Scout as being both an intellectual and young at the same time.
“’You’re too scared even to put your big toe in the front yard.’ Jem said he reckoned he wasn’t, he’d passed the Radley Place every school day of his life. ‘Always running.’ I said.” (pg 7) This quote sets up Scout’s and Jem relationship as sister and brother. They have a good relationship that often involves much teasing and good natured fighting.

Lee wants to paint a good picture of Scout before the plot really begins to pick up. It seems like indirect characterization is favored of direct.

2. Does the author's syntax and/or diction change when s/he focuses on character?  How?  Example(s)?

The author’s syntax and diction does not change as much as you would expect when she is describing characters. It seems to me like Lee is more descriptive when describing situations and allowing the situations to establish the characters as compared to describing them directly.

3. Is the protagonist static or dynamic?  Flat or round?  Explain.

The protagonist, Scout Finch, is a dynamic character. In the beginning of the novel she is quite naïve about racism and the problems that encircle Maycomb but the trial of Tom Robinson and the death of Tom and Bob Ewell make her very aware. In the end she learns to  “climb into [their] skin and walk around in it”, to try and understand their prospective on the situation before judging them. Also Scout learns about “mockingbirds”. She now knows very clearly that the innocent, at times, are threatened and killed even if they did nothing wrong. Her sense of justice is questioned thoroughly.

4. After reading the book did you come away feeling like you'd met a person or read a character?  Analyze one textual example that illustrates your reaction.

I think in the end I have met a real person. I think what did it for me was the lack of direct characterization and instead letting the situations define the characters. I feel like I’ve “climb into his skin and walked around in it.”


  1. I like the way that you explained how the author described her characters. It shows that you have full understanding of the characters. I also really like your final answer: I feel like I’ve “climb into his skin and walked around in it,” very clever.

  2. The font is a little small for my tastes, but overall I see no reason to really complain about the content. +1 good noodle star for you.

  3. Great Job! Your use of quotes was excellent and so were your page references. My favorite part was the end when you talked about letting the situations define the characters, very perceptive.

  4. Why yes…“To Kill A Mockingbird.” What lovely memories I get when I think back to when I read this. Well, I think you have a fantastic understanding of the novel and I see the use of textual examples which is also very good. Beautiful job!