Reading and Responding Unit One Outcome One Key questions to ask when analysing how the author constructs meaning. • How are symbols used to represent the prejudice that the children learn about? • How is dialogue used to create characters? • What impact does narrative voice have on the ways in which characters are presented to readers? • How does the novel’s structure help to shape their development from innocence to experience? • How is setting used to establish a theme or provide essential background information about characters or events? Character Study: Atticus In the novel, what is the role and function of the character of Atticus? -Moral centre of the novel (touchstone) -Teacher (primary role in the relationship with his children) -Provides a backstory and offers important perspectives on various characters -Provides insights into the type of community that is Maycomb -Facilitates readers’ understanding of key themes in the novel: justice, empathy, prejudice (class/race), -Key protagonist in the unfolding of the pivotal storyline of the court case Character Study: Atticus Take note of how Atticus is depicted by Harper Lee, as well as how he is described by Scout and other characters in the novel • related by blood or marriage to every family in the town (5) • Atticus said dryly • “Atticus is real old, but I wouldn’t care if he couldn’t do anything-I wouldn’t care if he couldn’t do a blessed thing.” • “nigger-lover” • “born to do our unpleasant jobs for us” • “one-shot Finch” • “is the same in his house as he is on the public streets” (51/220) • “whether Maycomb knows it or not, we’re paying him the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple.” (261) Atticus-Integrity The events before Tom’s trial show different facets of Atticus’ character: he admires courage, believes his skill with a gun is an unfair advantage and desires to treat damaged people, such as Boo Radley, with respect. However, his essential character remains unchanged for much of the novel. Atticus is the same man during and after Tom’s trial as he was before it: courteous, well-read, drily humourous, an attentive father, a fond brother and above all, a man who believes that ‘you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view’ (33). Atticus-Fatherhood • Atticus treats his children as intelligent young adults - he speaks in a clear matter-of-fact way, and answers questions directly (including technical points of law and definitions of rape). • He is very fair - he tries to hear both sides of an argument. • He does not beat his children, but is firm in some matters as when he insists that Jem read to Mrs Dubose, or makes them obey Calpurnia and Aunt Alexandra. • He does not stereotype people - he is quite happy for Scout to be a tomboy. • He sees that the children need a mother figure, and recognizes that Calpurnia is far better able than he is to be a homemaker. Atticus-Diplomacy and Grace • Atticus is frequently criticized by others people. He does not take advantage of his social standing to retaliate or rebuke them. • Atticus remains calm when provoked directly - look, for example, at how he handles Bob Ewell's challenge: “Too proud to fight?” “No,” says Atticus, “too old” (Consider the ambiguity - on the surface it seems to mean that Atticus is no longer strong and fit enough to fight; but also it might mean that fighting is not something that adults should do - which could imply that Bob has not grown up). • Atticus understands the importance of allowing people to pay for his services, even though he has no need of their gifts - as when he accepts payment in kind from the Cunninghams, or gifts from the black people of Maycomb after Tom's trial. Atticus-Empathy “Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?” (241) Atticus-Lack of Prejudice • He respects people of colour - he entrusts Calpurnia with the care of his children and gives her complete discretion in running his house. • Atticus respects women - he extends this respect to Mayella Ewell, whom Scout regards as pathetic and friendless. • Atticus says to Scout: 'As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life ... There's nothing more sickening to me than a low grade white man who'll take advantage of a Negro's ignorance.’ (243) – What does this reveal about Atticus and his view of race relations in his community? Atticus-Courage • Atticus demonstrates his capacity to be a courageous protector in facing a rabid dog, but he does not value this attribute highly. – How does this action reflect other characteristics displayed by Atticus? • Atticus exhibits physical courage in keeping guard outside the jail (Chapter 15), and stays calm and composed when confronted by the lynch mob. – Does Atticus take this stance merely as a deterrent, or to what extent does this reflect his inclination towards passive resistance? • In defending Tom and being ready to accept the label of “niggerlover” Atticus shows a degree of moral courage. – Does Atticus naively place his own family at risk by this public display of the courage of his convictions? • Atticus's ideal of courage is embodied by Mrs Dubose: “...when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what”. – Is this a fair description of Atticus's own courage in trying to save Tom? Atticus-Morality Atticus is the novel’s moral centre, since Scout and Jem are still developing their own moral codes and are learning them, in part, from their father. As he says to Heck Tate at the end of the novel, ‘if they don’t trust me they won’t trust anybody’ (301). -Excerpt from Insight Study Guide Finch will stand up to racists. He’ll use his moral authority to shame them into silence. He will leave the judge standing on the sidewalk while he shakes hands with Negroes. -Excerpt from Atticus Finch and Southern Liberalism Atticus-Justice "there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal-there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court" [p. 226]. (a) Does the jury's guilty verdict invalidate Atticus's claims? (b) Are the courts "the great levellers," making us all equal, as Atticus believes, or do wealth and race play an inordinate role in the way justice is distributed? Atticus-the closing speech Strategies employed by Atticus to convince the jury to ‘believe Tom Robinson’ -appeals to reason and rationality -evokes religious and moral values -reminds them of common characteristics such as fatherhood, family and community -appeals to their humanity -flatters and praises jury members -shifts focus from matters of race to matters of gender and prevailing community ‘codes’ -draws a distinction between good and bad people, casting Tom Robinson as a ‘quiet, respectable, humble Negro’ -distinguishes jury members from the Ewells and ‘minds of their calibre’ -refers to the constitution (‘all men are created equal’) Atticus the role model? “Finch never attempts to change the racism and sexism that permeates the life of Maycomb […] On the contrary, he lives his own life as the passive participant in that pervasive injustice. And that is not my idea of a role model for young lawyers.” Monroe Freedman “You know, I’d hoped to get through life without a case of this kind” (p.98) Atticus and ‘Blind Spots’ Atticus makes some errors of judgement: -trusting the Old Sarum mob not to try to lynch Tom-Atticus doesn’t carry a gun (Chapter 15) -trusting Bob Ewell not to carry out his threats of revenge (Chapter 23) What do these errors tell us about Atticus? How the author constructs meaning through key characters in the novel • Jem is an important character in the novel because…. • Calpurnia is an important character in the novel because…. Jem is an important character in the novel because….. • His growth and maturation is juxtaposed with Scout’s continual innocence. • He is a key figure in the theme of growing up. He is a supportive character for Scout as he instigates many of their adventures and games. He is a mentor and guide for Scout, who observes the changes in his personality and relates them to readers with warmth and respect, while maintaining a typical sibling antagonism. • He models himself after Atticus, yet begins to question some of his father’s beliefs about human nature. • The narrative begins and ends with Jem’s story – how he acquires a broken arm. • He provides the link between Boo Radley and the outside world. Jem’s curiosity and burgeoning awareness of injustice and human cruelty serves as a crucial contrast to the optimistic faith in human nature presented by his father. • His journey into the adult world reflects the bildungsroman genre. Jem embodies the ‘coming of age’ thread of the narrative. Calpurnia is an important character in the novel because…. • She is a surrogate mother for Scout and Jem. • She informs the town of the rabid dog and also the death of Tom Robinson. • She is treated like family in the Finch Household even though she’s a black woman. • She is the bridge between the white and the black community. • She teaches Scout about how to be a lady and a gracious host. • She is a black person that could read and she teaches Scout how to write. • Thematically, her character occupies a vital place at the intersection of race, gender and class. Calpurnia and Jem • Calpurnia plays a pivotal role in raising the Finch children. Thematically, her character occupies a vital place at the intersection of race, gender and class. Read from the following pages-27, 32, 83, 127, 139, 151, 228, 252. Briefly describe how Calpurnia is represented in each of these scenes and discuss the significance of these depictions. • Jem Finch embodies the ‘coming of age’ thread of the narrative. Lee presents a compelling juxtaposition of his maturation with his childlike sensitivity to injustice. Read from the following pages-36, 43-45, 57, 64-70, 109, 127, 152, 164, 167, 173, 233, 237, 243, 249-251, 271-273. Briefly describe how Jem is represented in each of these scenes and discuss the significance of these depictions. Calpurnia -While everyone in the novel is filtered through Scout’s perception – she is, after all, the narrator – Calpurnia in particular appears for a long time more as Scout’s idea of her than as a real person. -Scout at first sees Calpurnia less as a human being than as a force of nature that she runs up against all too often. -By taking the Finch kids with her to First Purchase Church, Calpurnia shows them a different side of her character. In this new setting of Maycomb’s African-American community, Calpurnia surprises Jem and Scout by speaking in a voice they have never heard her use before. -While Scout does learn to see Calpurnia as a real person over the course of the novel, the question remains open of to what extent the novel gives Calpurnia an identity separate from her role as the Finch kids’ ‘Giver of Life Lessons’. Calpurnia continued • • • Calpurnia is the African-American cook and housekeeper for the Finches. Calpurnia acts as a mother figure and disciplinarian in the Finch household. Atticus trusts Calpurnia, relies on her for support raising his children, and considers her part of the family. Calpurnia also gives the children insight into her world when she takes them to her church. In some ways she even takes the place of Scout and Jem's dead mother. But you soon learn that Calpurnia is not accepted by everyone. Some of the Finches' white friends look down on Calpurnia as a servant and are shocked to hear Atticus speak freely in her presence. At the same time, some members of Calpurnia's black church are very critical of her being on such friendly terms with her white employer. Calpurnia lives a divided life. You learn, for example, that she learned to read and write from old law books. In the Finchs' house she speaks the very correct English of an educated person; at church, however, she converses in her friends' dialect so they will not feel she is trying to act superior to them. Lee treats Calpurnia as admirable because she has made the best of her opportunities and has not allowed herself to become bitter. Calpurnia has a sense of self-worth that is not affected by the opinions of people around her. This is a way in which she resembles Atticus. – From MSH website http://resources.mhs.vic.edu.au/mockingbird/calpurnia.htm Jem Finch • Jem is Scout’s confidante and primary playmate. During the first part of the novel, he is as much a child as Scout: he’s superstitious and prone to swift retribution. His maturation becomes evident as the second half of the novel opens with ‘Jem was twelve. He was difficult to love with, inconsistent, moody’ (127). He is treated as an adult: Calpurnia class him ‘Mister Jem’ and Miss Maudie stops baking child-size cakes for him (237). • Jem’s maturation allows him to understand the abstract issues at stake in Tom’s trial better than Scout. His sensitivity to such things is foreshadowed in his silent tears when Nathan Radley blocks up the hollow oak (70) and in the episode with the rabid dog, when he tells Scout that Atticus’s refusal to boast about his shooting skill is ‘something [she] wouldn’t understand’ (109). Later, the reader sees that Jem is terrified when Scout leaps into the lynch mob (167) and how ‘his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them’ (233) when Tom’s verdict is read out. -Insight Study Guide Jem Finch continued • Jem may be old enough to understand the abstract issues of the trial, but he is young enough (or sensitive enough) to be deeply hurt by injustice. Atticus suggests this is a question of maturity, not personality: after the attempted lynching, he tells Jem, “you’ll understand folks a little better when you’re older” (173), and after the verdict suggests, “[s]o far nothing in your life has interfered with your reasoning process” (243). But Jem perhaps has a perceptivity that Atticus lacks: for example, Jem’s fears of Bob Ewell’s revenge turn out to be more accurate than Atticus’ optimism. • Jem’s maturation foreshadows Scout’s. She muses, ‘I hoped Jem would understand folks a little better when he was older; I wouldn’t’ (173). But by the novel’s end, Scout-about the same age as Jem was in the first chapter, and just beginning to understand the ‘sheer torment’ (267) that they must have caused Boo Radleytakes the same first step towards maturity as Jem. – Insight Study Guide Jem Finch continued • • • Scout's older brother, Jem Finch changes considerably over the course of the novel. At first you see him as Scout's playmate and equal. Once the children start school, however, Jem becomes more aware of the difference in age between himself and his sister. He doesn't want her to embarrass him in front of his fifthgrade friends. And later he and Dill develop a friendship from which Scout is partly excluded because she is a girl. In this part of the story you see Jem as the wiser older brother. He is the first to figure out that Boo Radley has been trying to communicate with them, and he does his best to explain unfamiliar words to Scout, even though he often gets their meanings wrong. Jem is also the more thoughtful and introverted of the Finch children. Unlike Scout, who is a fighter by temperament, Jem seems determined to obey his father's request to avoid fighting. He lets his anger build inside, until one day in a fit of temper he destroys Mrs. Dubose's garden. Later, at the time of the trial, Jem's optimistic view of human nature becomes apparent. He is probably the only person in town who really believes that justice will be done and Tom Robinson found innocent. When this does not happen, his disillusionment is so great that for a time he can't stand even to talk about the incident. By the end of the story Jem is almost grownup. On the surface, he seems quicker than Scout to put the trial behind, but inwardly, he has been more disturbed than Scout by the events of the trial. It is worth considering that Jem's broken arm at the end of the story is a deliberate sign that he will be wounded forever by what he has observed. – From MHS website http://resources.mhs.vic.edu.au/mockingbird/jem.htm In the novel, written by Harper Lee in the 1930’s, the author displays the progression of the relationship between the two main protagonists of the novel Jem and Scout. Harper Lee writes in the perspective of the young protagonist, Scout who is growing up in the slow, small town of Maycomb, South of Alabama with her older brother Jen and her father Atticus. Their sibling bond at the beginning of the novel, depicted by their childish roleplaying of Boo Radley’s live slowly breaks apart as they learn and grow up through the Tom Robinson trial, becoming a young lady and a young man and becoming more aware of the racism and prejudice that exists around them. Through these chronological events, the author portrays the struggles that face Scout and Jem as they begin to understand more about themselves, but most importantly more about each other. Literary techniques • Figurative Language – Metaphor – Simile – Personification – Idiom • Allusions • Dialogue • Southern colloquialisms and dialect Figurative Language The following quotations are examples of metaphor, personification and simile: • Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.(5) • The Radley place fascinated Dill. In spite of our warnings it drew him as the moon draws water. (9) • The house was the same, droopy and sick, but as we stared down the street we thought we saw an inside shutter move. Flick. A tiny, almost invisible movement and the house was still (16) • [Auntie said] I should be a ray of sunshine in my father’s lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, that I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year. (90) • Mr.Gilmer waited for Mayella to collect herself: she had twisted her handkerchief into a sweaty rope (199) Consider how the use of such figurative language creates a visual image for readers, thereby emphasizing the significance of the subject matter in relation to themes and ideas in the narrative. The various connotations thus provide scope for differing interpretations. Idioms • • • • • • • as sure as eggs: Something that is bound to happen; just as chickens are sure to lay eggs set my teeth permanently on edge: to annoy someone or make them feel nervous the way in which Aunt Alexandra tends to annoy Scout travelled in state: To travel in state is to do so in the position of a person of great wealth and rank he had seen the light: In this case to have seen the light means to have become religious blind spots: a prejudice or area of ignorance that someone has but is unaware of. Mr Cunningham's blind spot is his prejudice against Tom Robinson guests of the county: on public assistance or welfare into the limelight: in theatre, the limelight is an intense light thrown on stage in order to highlight an actor, etc. To be in the limelight is to be put in prominent position before the public Allusions • • • • • nothing to fear but fear itself (6): an allusion to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first Inaugural Address Thus we came to know Dill as a pocket Merlin (8): King Arthur's adviser, prophet and magician stump hole whiskey (10): illegally made and sold whiskey that would be hidden in the holes of tree stumps bread lines in the cities grew longer (128): during the Great Depression, thousands of people relied on charitable organizations for meals and would line up for simple meals often of bread and soup Mrs Roosevelt-just plain lost her mind coming down to Birmingham and tryin’ to sit with ‘em (258): in 1939, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended a meeting for the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in Birmingham, Alabama where she defied state authorities by sitting in the centre aisle, between whites and blacks, after police told her she was violating segregation laws by sitting with black people. Structure A long episodic novel can easily lose its way, but Harper Lee has a very organic sense of a single story with a unifying or central theme (the mockingbird theme) which is illustrated by the examples of Arthur Radley and Tom Robinson. How many readers recall, by the end of the novel, the first sentence (“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow”)? This statement is soon forgotten, amidst a mass of narrative detail, but this incident, which Scout does not see and Jem cannot recall, is the defining moment or climax of the entire story. The first part of the novel is an account of Scout’s early years, taking her first days at school as a starting point. Most of this section is about the search for Arthur “Boo” Radley. The second part shows Scout becoming more able to understand the adult world, which is mirrored by the more serious events that occur at this point in her life. In the conclusion, however, Harper Lee brings the two narratives together – the stories are not separate. While Scout and Jem have been thinking more about the trial and less about Boo Radley, Arthur has not forgotten them. His appearance in the final chapters is almost miraculous – it is plausible (believable in its context) because it is so understated. There is no direct account of Arthur Radley’s attack on Bob Ewell. It is inferred from the sounds Scout hears and what Heck Tate discovers at the scene. Language Standard and non-standard forms To Kill a Mockingbird is a conventional literary novel. This means, among other things that it: • is written in a form of standard English which has a wide-ranging lexicon (vocabulary), • includes references to art and culture which the author expects the reader to know (or find out) • relates principal events mostly in the past tense The narrative contains some distinctively American lexis (vocabulary) so, to take one chapter (11) as a random example, we find “sassiest”, “mutts” and “playing hooky”. In some cases you will find a form which is standard in both UK and US English, but with a different meaning. So when Jem leaves his “pants” (trousers) on the Radley fence, this is not as alarming as it might seem to English readers. On the other hand, when he stands “in his shorts (underpants or boxer shorts) before God and everybody”, this is perhaps more alarming. In the account of the visit to First Purchase, Scout records the distinctive speech of the coloured people noting with particular interest the way Calpurnia switches into this non-standard variety. Depicting racism through dialogue • The novel is set in the 1930s but was written in the late 1950s. The dialogue is marked by frequent use of the word "nigger". This is a convenient way to indicate to the reader the racist attitudes of various characters. When she wishes to refer to African-Americans, Harper Lee uses the term "coloured". It is not only racist whites who say use the term "nigger", however - at First Purchase church, Calpurnia addresses Lula as "nigger". • Since the novel was published, attitudes have changed about what is acceptable to speak and write. In the trial of O.J. Simpson, the word "nigger" was considered too offensive to repeat in court, and was described as the "Nword". Southern colloquialisms and dialect The USA is a vast country, and Harper Lee makes use of many regional expressions, local to the southern (former Confederate) states or to Alabama more specifically, like “cootie”, “haint”, “scuppernongs” and “whistled bob-white”.