To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird • Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, a sleepy small town similar in many ways to Maycomb, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird. • Like Atticus Finch, the father of Scout, the narrator and protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee's father was a lawyer. • Among Lee's childhood friends was the future novelist and essayist Truman Capote, from whom she drew inspiration for the character Dill. • Lee maintains that To Kill a Mockingbird was intended to portray not her own childhood home but rather a nonspecific Southern town. “People are people anywhere you put them,” she declared in a 1961 interview. TKAM Background Information • The book's setting and characters are not the only aspects of the story shaped by events that occurred during Lee's childhood. • In 1931, when Lee was five, nine young black men were accused of raping two white women near Scottsboro, Alabama. • After a series of lengthy, highly publicized, and often bitter trials, five of the nine men were sentenced to long prison terms. • Many prominent lawyers and other American citizens saw the sentences as motivated only by racial prejudice. Background Info Continued • It was also suspected that the women who had accused the men were lying, and in appeal after appeal, their claims became more dubious. • There can be little doubt that the Scottsboro Case, as the trials of the nine men came to be called, served as a seed for the trial that stands at the heart of Lee's novel. Harper Lee • Lee began To Kill a Mockingbird in the mid-1950s, after moving to New York to become a writer. She completed the novel in 1957 and published it, with revisions, in 1960, just before the peak of the American civil rights movement. • In the racially charged atmosphere of the early 1960s, the book became an enormous popular success, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and selling over fifteen million copies. Two years after the book's publication, an Academy Award-winning film version of the novel, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, was produced. Key Facts • Genre · Coming-of-age story; social drama; courtroom drama; Southern drama • Time and Place Written · Mid-1950s; New York City • Date of first publication · 1960 Key Facts • Narrator · Scout narrates the story herself, looking back in retrospect an unspecified number of years after the events of the novel take place. • Point of View · Scout narrates in the first person, telling what she saw and heard at the time and augmenting this narration with thoughts and assessments of her experiences in retrospect. • Although she is by no means an omniscient narrator, she has matured considerably over the intervening years and often implicitly and humorously comments on the naïveté she displayed in her thoughts and actions as a young girl. • Scout mostly tells of her own thoughts but also devotes considerable time to recounting and analyzing Jem's thoughts and actions. Key Facts • Tone · Childlike, humorous, nostalgic, innocent; as the novel progresses, increasingly dark, foreboding, and critical of society • Tense · Past • Setting (time) · 1933–1935 • Setting (place) · The fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama • Protagonist · Scout Finch Themes • Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. • The Coexistence of Good and Evil • The Importance of Moral Education • The Existence of Social Inequality Motifs • Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes. • Gothic Details • Small-Town Life Symbols • Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. • Mockingbirds • Boo Radley Foreshadowing • Foreshadowing · The Gothic elements of the novel (the fire, the mad dog) build tension that subtly foreshadows Tom Robinson's trial and tragic death. • Burris Ewell's appearance in school foreshadows the nastiness of Bob Ewell. * The presents Jem and Scout find in the oak tree foreshadow the eventual discovery of Boo Radley's good-heartedness * Bob Ewell's threats and suspicious behavior after the trial foreshadow his attack on the children.