To kill a mockingbird
This edition (1989) was published by: Mandarin Paperbacks
The story is about two children Scout en Jem Finch who live with their father Atticus Finch, and their nanny Calpurnia, in a village called Maycomb in the southern states of the USA.
Maycomb country wasn't such a peaceful place as you would think it was. A lot of discrimination of black people was going on there (in the southern states in the time of WW2)
Close to the house of Scout of Jem was another house: the house of the family Radley. Everyone thought that there was a boy in that house called Arther, who hadn't been outside for 23 years. His nickname was Boo, because some people thought he went outside at nighttime and would peek into people's houses through the window. Other people thought he was dead.
Scout and Jem were both scared of Boo and often dared each other to go up to the front door of the Radley's house. Scout who was younger than Jem was sometimes taught all kinds of things to do with school by Jem and her nanny Calpurnia. Her teacher didn't like this and kept on telling Atticus not to teach Scout things she wasn't supposed to know. However, the teacher was always polite because Atticus was a lawyer and everyone respects him in Maycomb County. However that changed very fast after the following incident. Atticus had to defend a black man called Tom Robinson. He was convicted of raping a white girl called Mayella Ewell. From then on Jem, Scout and Atticus were not respected any more and Jem and Scout were often told that their father was a 'dirty niggerlover'. Scout and Jem could cope with this, but one time they got so mad when an old lady was yelling at them that they went to her house and recked all her flowers. As a punishment they had to read her a story every day for 2 months. Scout and Jem were not allowed to go to the trial by their father but they secretly did. Before the trial was opened some things were actually unfair: the whole jury was white. When the trial was opened things became very clear for everyone: Tom didn't rape the girl because tests had proven that a left hand had hit the girl and Tom didn't have a left hand. Also because Mayella had said some strange things it became clear that her father had beaten her a lot. Also all the wittnesses were constantly telling different stories. So everyone must have known that Tom was innocent, but 'surprisingly' Atticus lost the case. Of course Atticus wanted to re-open the case, but then Tom did something stupid: He tried to escape and was shot dead by the guards. The father of the raped girl really hated Atticus his guts and wanted revenge on what he had said about him in court. At night when Jem and Scout walked home the father attacked the children and knocked out Jem. Just before he was going to hit Scout Boo appeared and helped Jem and Scout escaping. The next morning the father was found dead with a knife between his ribs. Everyone thought it was suicide, Atticus thought it was Jem, but later on he believed that Jem was innocent. The reader of the book gets the impression that Boo did it, however this is never confirmed. Now that Jem and Scout found out who Boo really was, they got to know him better and it turned out that he wasn't as weird as they thought and they weren't scared of him anymore.
The Title: To kill a mockingbird
According to Atticus it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, I think what he means by this is that it is considered a sin to kill a white person, especially if your black.
Scout: Is a wild girl who copies her older brother Jem. She does all things boys do. I think she is 12 years old. Probably the most important person in Scout's life was the one who had set the best examples for her. This was Atticus. He taught her never to disrespect someone (in this case Boo) and to stick to something you started (that's why Atticus carried on till the end in the case with Tom Robinson). She doesn't really know a lot about racism and discrimination yet, that's why she didn't understand why Atticus lost the case. At the end of the book Scout became wiser and less childish than she was in the beginning of the story.
Jem: Is Scout's older brother. I think he is about 13 or 14 years old. First he was also very wild and childish just like Scout, but later on he became more calm and gentle and mature. He does know what the situation was at that time (discrimination, racism) and he does understand why Tom lost his case. Because he knew more than Scout about racism he was the one who smashed all the flowers of the old lady because he didn't like what she said, Scout just copied him without knowing the real reason.
Tom Robinson: Even though he isn't in the whole book, he still plays an important part in the story, because he was black and that's why he lost the case. He already knew he was ranked less than a white person, because he was black. And I also think he had an inferiority complex. Eventually he got so scared after he had lost the case that he tried to escape and that was a fatal mistake he had made. He is such an important character, because the whole book is about him being black and therefor having no rights.
-The story takes place just after the second world war, when there was a lot of discrimination and racism in the southern states of America
-The story is told chronologically
-I can't recall having read any flash-backs in the book, but if there were any, they weren't important
-The story is told through the eyes of Scout, that's why sometimes you find that there are a lot of childish lines in the book, however the story isn't always told as Scout experiences it. Sometimes the writer tells us things Scout doesn't know.
-The story mainly takes place in Maycomb; the most important area's here are the house of Atticus, the court and the school. The court is such an important place in the story, because that is where the whole trial of Robinson took place.
Structure of the story
The story consists mainly of three parts: 1) the introduction, of 40 pages. Here we get to know Scout, Jem, Atticus, Boo and everyone else in Maycomb. We also find out what life is like in a village in the southern states of America after world war two.
2) The major event, the trial with Tom Robinson. This is the most important part of the book. Here is where we learn about racism and discrimination. There are also a lot of real historic facts in this part of the story.
3) The clasp, here Jem and Scout get attacked, They get to know Boo and the story ends.
There are two main events that contain tension: The Tom Robinson trial and when Jem and Scout are attacked.
The main theme of this story is racism. Other themes are discrimination, prejudging and the biased and narrow-minded thinking of some white people at that time.
I think this story was not only written to amuse you, but if you read it carefully it also gives you a feeling of what life was like in America at that time. It shows us how prejudged and narrow-minded people dealt with black people and how unfair life was for black people at that time.
I found the words in the book not difficult to read, but it wasn't easy either. The dialogues were not that easy to read, because they contained old fashioned American slang words. Overall, I found the book easy to read, concerning language.
I found the story interesting, because it contained historical facts. However, the whole book I found rather boring, because the first 40 pages were 'waisted' in discribing the characters and talking about Maycomb. But disregarding that, I found the book very well written and touchable.
Information about the writer
Born in Monroeville, Alabama, on April 28, 1926, Nelle Harper Lee is the youngest of three children of Amassa Coleman Lee and Francis Lee.
Miss Lee received her early education in the Monroeville public schools. Following this, she entered the University of Alabama to study law, but left in 1950 without having completed the requirements for her law degree. She moved to New York and worked as an airline reservation clerk.
Her law studies proved to be good training for a writing career: they promote logical thinking, and legal cases are an excellent source of story ideas. After she came to New York, she approached a literary agent with a manuscript of two essays and three short stories. Miss Lee followed his suggestion that she expand one of the stories into a novel. This eventually became To Kill A Mockingbird. Besides her prize-winning novel, Miss Lee has had several essays published. For example, "Christmas to Me" appeared in the December, 1961, issue of McCalls, and "Love - In other Words" appeared in the April 15, 1961, edition of Vogue. These essays display the same easy, sympathetic style of her novel.
To Kill A Mockingbird was on the bestseller lists for a period of over eighty weeks. Also the book was chosen as a Literary Guild selection; a Book-of-the-Month book; and a Reader's Digest Condensed Book. It was also published in paperback by Popular Library. In April, 1961, Miss Lee was awarded the Alabama Library Association Award. In May, 1961, she was the first woman since 1942 to win the The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
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