To Kill a Mockingbird Background Information

To Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee
Nelle Harper Lee—her life
• Born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville,
• Grew up and established a strong
friendship with neighbor, Truman Capote
• Attended Huntingdon College (1944-45)
• Studied law at University of Alabama
• Studied for one year at Oxford University
Nelle Harper Lee—her writing
To Kill a Mockingbird is her only novel.
Submitted TKAM in 1957; rejected
Spent two and one-half years revising
In 1960, TKAM published to widespread
• Pulitzer Prize—1961
• Movie version won four Academy Awards-1962
TKAM—the novel
• Written during the Civil Rights Movement
• African Americans were fighting for equal
Major Civil Rights Events
• The Montgomery Bus
Boycott (Rosa Parks):
African Americans
avoided mass transit for
an entire year in protest
of segregation.
Major Civil Rights Events
• The Little
Rock/Central High
School Crisis:
The National Guard was
called in to prevent
African American
students from enrolling in
an all white high school.
Notable Civil Rights Activists
• Martin Luther King
• Malcolm X
• While the novel was
written in the late
1950s, it takes place
in the 1930s when the
segregation sentiment
was high.
• Historically, the novel
takes place around
the time of the Great
Depression, The 1929
Stock Market Crash,
and World War 1.
TKAM—Society at that time…
• A definite class
structure existed
• Upper and middle
class whites lived in
nice neighborhoods.
(The Finch family)
TKAM—Society at that time…
• Lower class whites
lived on the outskirts
of town in rundown
shacks. (The Ewell
and Cunningham
TKAM—Society at that time…
• African Americans
lived even farther
away from civilization.
• Often many
generations shared a
The novel…
• forces the reader to look at strengths and
weaknesses in our society.
• allows the reader to examine prejudice
and intolerance.
• permits the reader to analyze characters
as they move from innocence to maturity
in a realistic historical setting.
• Scout Finch-- the
protagonist and
• Semiautobiographical
• Lee would have been
the same age as
Scout at the time the
novel took place.
• Lee’s father was a
lawyer like Scout’s
• Lee’s hometown of
Monroeville shares
similarities with
• Atticus Finch—Scout’s father (a widower)
• An attorney
• Respected in the community
Other Important Characters
• Jem Finch—Scout’s older brother
• Dill—Scout’s friend who lives with his aunt in the house
next to the Finches during the summer months
• Calpurnia—The Finch’s housekeeper and caretaker of
Scout and Jem
• Boo Radley—a very mysterious neighbor
These are the first characters introduced. Be sure to add to
the character list as reading continues…
What is a mockingbird?
• The Texas state bird,
which does not have its
own song. Instead, it
imitates the songs of
other birds. Killing a
mockingbird is illegal.
• In the novel, the
mockingbird is an
important symbol of
innocence destroyed by
If you have read this story before…do not spoil it for others who have not read it yet!

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