FC: By: Harper Lee | To Kill a Mockingbird | A Literary Analysis by : Brooke Denman
1: Table of Contents: Setting and Historical Context................................................2 Point of View.........................................................................4 Conflicts................................................................................6 Characterization.....................................................................8 Symbols...............................................................................10 Themes................................................................................12 Literary Criticism...................................................................14 -Feminist..........................................................14 -New Historicism...............................................16 -Psychoanalytical..............................................18
2: "Maycomb, some twenty miles east of Finch's Landing, was the county seat of Maycomb County" (Lee,4). This quote serves to place the setting of this novel in the deep south of Maycomb County, Alabama. | "In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square" (Lee, 5). This quote takes part in describing the town of Maycomb in further detail and provides a better visual image to the setting of the story. | "Dill had seen Dracula, a revelation that moved Jem to eye him with the beginning of respect" (Lee,7). This quote places this novel way back, but no earlier than 1931, since the movie Dracula came out in 1931. It was strange but excited for a boy as young as Dill to have seen this horror film since it was considered especially terrifying for anyone back then, much less a young boy. | Setting
3: Why Setting is Important: | Understanding the context of the setting in this book was important, because without it, it's hard to understand some of the mannerisms that are present throughout the novel. Since this story takes place not only in the 1930's, but in the deep south, the characters act differently than some would in, say, New York City. Also, the conflict that take place in this novel reflect the attitude of the southern people. | Real World Events VS. To Kill A Mockingbird | The Scottsboro Trial took place back in 1931. A number of white and black youths were riding on a freight train, traveling to see if they could find work. A fight broke out between a group of black and white hobos, and the whites were thrown off the train.Dozens of armed men rounded up nine black youths and took them to jail. They were about to be charged with assault when two white women, dressed in boys clothing, were discovered hiding on the train. Although there was no evidence connecting the youth to the women, the nine youths were charged with raping the Two women, fearful of being prosecuted for their sexual activity aboard the train, agreed to testify that nine black youths had raped them.women. The women -- who had had sexual relations with some of the white men thrown off the train and fearing prosecution for their sexual activity with the white men -- agreed to testify against the black youths. The trial was held in the town of Scottsboro, Alabama. The all-white jury convicted the nine, and all but the youngest, who was 12 years old, were sentenced to death. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson is an African American man who is accused of raping a young woman named Mayella Ewell. Although it was expressed in the novel that Robinson was innocent, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. In fact, it was also shown that Bob Ewell, Mayella's father, was more likely than not, guilty of in fact abusing his daughter. In both of these instances, African American individuals were tried and sentenced to death because white people wished to not be caught in their own heinous acts. | The Scottsboro Boys -Those persecuted were African American -All found guilty -Accused of something they didn't do -Accused of rape -Sentenced to death | The Persecution of Tom Robinson -African American -Found guilty -Accused of something he didn't do -Accused of rape -Sentenced to death
4: It was over before it even started. After the first scream it was obvious that the children needed help. It was pitch black outside and nobody was going to come to their aid unless I did. But it’s better to not worry about what had happened now, all that matters is that both of the children are alive and well.. and that Bob Ewell no longer was to bother the Finch’s. I carried the boy around the corner and across their front lawn. I knew Jean Louise was following behind, being quite timid of course because she probably had no idea what to think. Next thing I knew, Atticus was flying down the stairs and helping me to bring Jem inside. I helped him carry the boy down the hall to his room and placed him into his bed. The older woman of the house was running to check on the girl while Atticus was yelling for someone to call Dr. Reynolds. After making sure that the boy was safely in his bed, I stood up and went to a corner of the room and leaned against the wall. I decided I would stay until everything was dealt with. Atticus went to take the phone from the woman whom Jean Louise referred to as Aunt Alexandra. I figured he was calling up Heck Tate to set things straight with the sheriff. As I could hear the calamity going on in the next room upon the arrival of Dr. Reynolds, it was just me and the boy in his room. His labored breaths showed that he was obviously in a great deal of pain. | Point of View | First Person "At Christmas Dinner, I sat at the little table in the dining room; Jem and Francis sat with the adults at the dining table" (Lee, 81) The narrator of this quote would be Jean Louise Finch, a young girl from the south. I believe that Lee decided to tell this story from the perspective of a young girl because it would dramatically change the way the story was viewed by the reader and would offer the insight of a young girl, seeing as children tend to see the world how it really is.
5: After the doc had examined Jem and given him medication to knock him out, the family was all gathered in the room and Heck Tate arrived to take statements. After the sheriff ran through the events that happened with Jean Louise, she pointed me out. Uncomfortable, my hand, which was holding me up against the wall, fell to my side and I hitched my fingers into the loop-holes of my belt. I tried smiling at her, timidly, not wanting to frighten her. “Hey, Boo,” she said with sudden tears in her eyes. I awkwardly shuffled to my feet. The light from the living room window shining in my face. I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do at this point. Should I just go home? Struck by a coughing fit, I took out my handkerchief and sat back down. After that storm had passed, I stood back up and turned to Jean Louise. She asked if I would like to say goodnight to Jem and led me inside and down the hall before I could answer. Her aunt was seated on Jem’s bed and after having a word with Jean Louise, she got up and excused herself from the room. By this point I had drifted to a corner of the room, out of the way, where I liked to be. Jean Louise walked over to me and took my hand and tugged me towards her brother’s bed. I look at him curiously. This was the first time I had actually seen Jem up close. I wanted to reach out and stroke his head, just to affirm that he was indeed okay, but let my hand drop to my side. “You can pet him, Mr. Arthur, he’s asleep,” the young girl looked up at me, waiting. I softly laid my hand on his head while still holding Jean Louise’s hand with the other. I tightened my grip on her hand and signaled that at this point, I wished to leave. I was becoming uncomfortable in their home and wished to return to my own. “Will you take me home?” I whispered to Jean Louise so as to not frighten her. She instructed me to bend my arm to she could place her hand on the crook of my arm. I had to stoop down slightly to compensate for the height difference. Yet I was comfortable with her walking me down the steps and down the sidewalk. Once we’d walked up the steps to my house and onto the porch. I reached out for the doorknob and gently released her hand, opened the door, and went inside, shutting the door behind me. That was the last time that I ever had contact with Jean Louise Finch. I’d see her periodically, whilst looking out my window, down the street beyond my own yard. In some ways, I’m glad to have spoken with her, even if it was only a few words. She was one of the only people to ever take a true interest in me. Yet, I find it quite unfortunate that the way we finally had met, was through the death of another. Atticus corrected her and introduced her to me formally. She then proceeded to run over to her brother’s bedside and cover him up and the same shy smile as before crept upon my face. Heck looked intently at my through his horn-rimmed glasses. He looked as though he had something of importance to say, but was interrupted by the return of Dr. Reynolds. Atticus suggested that we all head to the front porch to discuss the events of the night. Heck Tate and Atticus walked out of the room and Jean Louise approached me and told me to come along. I just looked down at her and nodded my head and she led me down the hall, past the living room. She led me to a chair in the dark shadow of the porch. I politely took a seat and then Heck and Atticus started to converse about what exactly each thought had gone down. The sheriff was extremely convinced that after Jem had scuffled with Mr. Ewell, that Bob had, in his drunken stupor, foolishly fallen on to his own knife and that no one was to blame for the killing. Where as Atticus stood firm that his boy, in an attempt to save himself and his sister, had acted out in defense and stabbed Bob Ewell. The whole time I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. Heck got up from his seat and walked across the porch in anguish. The two both stood firm in their beliefs of what had taken place that night. After much stubbornness from both sides, Atticus relented and afterwards, Mr. Tate stomped off to go back into town. Atticus, after speaking a few words with Jean Louise, had gotten up and as he went to walk in the house, stopped in front of me. “Thank you for my children, Arthur,” he said.
6: Conflicts | Conflict | Type of Conflict | 1) Francis calls Atticus a nigger lover and Scout wants to beat him up. | 2) Aunt Alexandra is trying to change who Scout is and make her more lady-like. | 3) Bob Ewell spits in Atticus' face. | 1) Character vs. Self Internal | 2) Character vs. Society Internal | 3) Character vs. Character External
7: Conflict #1: Character Involved: Scout Before: Didn't really think too much of the case Atticus was taking on. She knew he was doing it for his own reasons. After: She truly realized how much hatred everyone had, not only towards the Negroes, but anyone who tried to treated them like actual human beings. | Conflict #2 Character Involved: Scout Before: Scout was in a family where she was accepted for herself, even though she didn't act like a proper young lady. After: She was forced to take on several more feminine qualities which were uncharacteristic for her. | Conflict #3 Character Involved: Atticus Before: Atticus thought that the deal with Bob Ewell was done and over with and had no concerns regarding him. After: Atticus was slightly more concerned by the less than intimidating man. However, he was sure that if anything were to happen, that it would be between just him and Bob.
8: Characterization | Dynamic Characters: | Scout | Dill | Scout Finch is a young girl living in the South. As the story develops, she becomes more and more intuitive as to her surroundings and how the world works. | Dill is a young boy who comes to Maycomb to live with his Aunt Rachel. As the story develops, we come to better understand why he acts the way that he does. | In several instances throughout the novel, Scout questions her father, Atticus, about events taking place in the world around her. He gives her the most realistic answer possible, and through these answers, Scout finds herself in a whole new set of surroundings. | At the beginning of the book, Jem and Scout see Dill as this exciting new kid that travels all around. But as the story continues, we learn that Dill actually has a pretty rough life. Once people start discovering who he really is, Dill is much more open about his past and stops pretending to be someone that he is not.
9: Static Characters: | Aunt Alexandra | Tom Robinson | Aunt Alexandra considers herself to be a proper Southern Lady through and through. She expects the same dedication to being a lady from her niece Scout. | Tom Robinson was the Negro convicted of Raping Mayella Ewell. Although his presence in the book wasn't for long, he was characterized as a strong and reliable and honest man. | Aunt Alexandra is a static character because throughout the entire novel, she remains steadfast that Jean Louise needs to be brought up as a proper lady. No matter how much Scout hates wearing dresses and acting like a lady, Aunt Alexandra won't give up. | Tom Robinson was frequently described as being a good man and although faced with a rough situation (in the form of his trial, he still remained the man that everyone knew him as before. A reliable and selfless man.
11: The title of this novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" could mean many things. I believe that the title symbolizes how the world tends to destroy things that are good with no fault. Hence why in the novel Atticus tells one of his children that "killing a mockingbird is a sin", yet throughout the book, Scout sees many characters that almost encompass the ideals of a mockingbird, and how they are persecuted whether or not they are at fault. | Boo Radley could be considered a mockingbird, seeing as how he has committed no wrongs throughout the entire novel. Although he has done no wrong, people have still tried to harm him, although not physically but verbally. Tom Robinson is another character in this book who could be considered a mockingbird. Tom is wrongfully accused in the novel and, although he does no wrong, is still persecuted for his made up crimes. Scout Finch could also be considered a mockingbird. Throughout the book, she is, all in all, portrayed as a young girl with little true understanding of the world around her. However, as she learns more of her own surroundings, she realizes that the world really is a horrible place. Once instance that proves this is when Bob Ewell, drunken and angry, tries to stab her.
12: Theme | True friends are those who accept you for who you really are | "Dill Harris could tell the biggest ones I ever heard. Among other things, he had been up in a mail plane seventeen times, he had been to Nova Scotia, he had seen an elephant, and his granddaddy was Brigadier General Joe Wheeler and left him his sword" (Lee,48). | This quote shows how, even though Scout and Jem knew that Dill was lying about his adventures, they didn't really care because they still considered him a friend.
13: You can't judge a man until you've walked in his shoes | “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" (Lee, 30). | This quote is what starts to really open up Scout's view of the world. Now she begins to see everyone as human beings, just like her father. Rather than following the opinion of the other townspeople. | Never harm anything or anyone who has done no harm to you | “It’s not okay to hate anybody" (Lee, 246). | This quote goes to show how Atticus is a firm believer that you should never harm anyone who does nothing but bide their own time and keep to their own business. Atticus is not one to put up with intolerance.
14: Feminist School of Literary Criticism | The feminist school of literary criticism believes that men and women can offer a completely different perspective on a story. Often times, this school of criticism focuses on details such as a woman's role in society or how they're viewed by the men surrounding them. Often times, the way a man in a story reacts to a woman, how much power the woman holds within the story, and how sympathetic a story is to a female character play a key role in determining whether or not a work is "feminist friendly".
15: As a young girl living in the South, many people find that Scout should act more like a proper southern lady. When Aunt Alexandra and Scout are first introduces, there are some obvious conflicts between the two involving Scout's femininity. Aunt Alexandra tries to control Scout and change who she is, while Scout refuses to even give up her pants. While some people seem to agree with Aunt Alexandra's point of view, they still don't necessarily agree with forcing Scout to change who she is. Even Scout's father Atticus told Scout that she should at least give her aunt's ideas a try. However, while the relationship between Scout and Aunt Alexandra began very rocky, they seem to come to some sort of compromise towards the end of the story.
16: New Historicism School of Literary Criticism | This school of literary criticism believes the history has been recorded only by the dominant power involved with certain events in time. Meaning that a larger power's perspective on an event in history would be far from that of a smaller power's. Any change is culture as a result of the work or different perspectives on historical events go to show how the influence of a dominant power really does make a difference in how we view historical events.
17: In the book To Kill a Mockingbird, prejudice amongst the people of Maycomb is far from nonexistent. Racism definitely played huge role as well, especially in the main conflict of the story. The fact that a black man was blamed for a crime that was never committed in order to cover up the crime of a white man, is just appalling. The people of Maycomb also go as far as to ridicule a man of their own race, because he has no issue with the people of color in their town. This novel absolutely reflects the attitudes of many Americans in the 1930's, especially in the South, towards colored people. Yet, the story also showcases the slightly increasing tolerance of colored people, which was beginning to grow in the United States in the 2950's (when the novel was written). It is definitely possible that this novel and subsequent release of the film helped to impact and shape the attitudes of the white population in the United States toward the colored population.
18: Psychoanalytical School of Literary Criticism | The object of psychoanalytic literary criticism, at its very simplest, can be the psychoanalysis of the author or of a particularly interesting character in a given work. The three main points analyzed by this school of criticism include the id, the superego, and the ego. The id would be the basic desire of a character and the roots of the character's wants. The superego is the exact opposite of the id. The superego is what a character has been taught to them as being morally wrong. Then we have the ego. The ego is sort of a compromise between the two. It's the reality of a situation and how a character compromises with their own subconscious in order to satisfy not only the basic desire, or the id, but the superego as well.
19: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do" (Lee,116). ~ Atticus Finch Aunt Alexandra could be viewed as a hero based on Atticus' views because even though Scout is very stubborn about not being a real southern belle, you can tell that Aunt Alexandra really just wants the best for Scout. Tom Robinson could be seen as a hero because even though he was accused of such a horrible crime in this novel, he still spoke out and tried to prove his innocence. Mr. Underwood also demonstrated heroic qualities because even though the entire town of Maycomb looked down on him for hanging around the Negroes, he saw them as real people. Calpurnia was a hero because she chose to not be afraid of learning to read and write, while most colored people of the time were still fearful of learning. Judge Taylor could be viewed as a hero because he chose to not just undermine Tom Robinson and to actually listen to his case, regardless of his color. Several times he pushed forward in the trial and acted as though he wished that Bob Ewell was caught for his crimes. Boo Radley most definitely can be viewed as a hero. He saved both Jem and Scout from being stabbed to death by Bob Ewell. Scout is a hero because one night she and Jem and Dill decided to go follow their father into town, and Scout ended up breaking up a mob that was after Tom Robinson. Jem could be seen as a hero, because he tried to fight off Bob Ewell and protect his sister. Harper Lee has chosen several characters in this novel which all maintain the qualities of a hero. From these characterizations we can see that Lee believes strongly that anyone can be a hero in their own way. Some of these characters could most definitely be seen as a reflection of herself. While she may have not ever broken up a fight or was persecuted for rape, I'm sure she'd like to view herself as a courageous individual just like many of her characters.