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Is "To Kill a Mockingbird" controversial?To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged...

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted September 24, 2007 at 2:04 PM via web

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Is "To Kill a Mockingbird" controversial?

To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged repeatedly by the political left and right, who have sought to remove it from libraries for its portrayal of conflict between children and adults; ungrammatical speech; references to sex, the supernatural, and witchcraft; and unfavorable presentation of blacks. Which elements of the book-if any-do you think touch on controversial issues in our contemporary culture? Did you find any of those elements especially troubling, persuasive, or insightful?

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted September 24, 2007 at 5:09 PM (Answer #2)

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Is "To Kill a Mockingbird" controversial?

To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged repeatedly by the political left and right, who have sought to remove it from libraries for its portrayal of conflict between children and adults; ungrammatical speech; references to sex, the supernatural, and witchcraft; and unfavorable presentation of blacks. Which elements of the book-if any-do you think touch on controversial issues in our contemporary culture? Did you find any of those elements especially troubling, persuasive, or insightful?

Supernatural and witchcraft in Mockingbird?  I would love to hear a discussion on that.  But I will speak to the point of the racism in the novel.  Atticus (or is it Gregory Peck) is an icon in (our white) culture for taking on a losing fight and doing the best he can for Tom, and common interpretation is that in shooting the mad dog, he takes a swipe at Ewell and racism (as infection) to boot. Yet both Atticus and the narrator (in her adult voice) are condescending to Tom, who is a "good Negro" because he knows his place. The words "white trash" are tossed about rather freely, too, and although it seems they properly describe the Ewells--Bob in particular--the stereotype of poor whites as "white trash" (more recently trailer-trash) is as pernicious and harmful as racism--and as with black humor, has developed its own humor as well. But it is for these reasons that Mockingbird belongs in the classroom, hopefully one with children of different races and economic backgrounds with a teacher who can facilitate a discussion around these very hard-to-talk-about issues.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted September 25, 2007 at 11:35 AM (Answer #3)

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Oh, but there are supernatural events that help contribute to the gothic-like tone of some of the scenes.  There is the obvious, like the events of Halloween, in which the children enter a very scary forest (may I suggest, a "Hawthorn-y" forest?), under a full moon (hope I am recalling this moon bit from the novel and not the film).

There is the rabid dog incident.  The odd snowfall.

And, of course, "Boo" Radley, who if anyone ever lived in a "gothic" home (haunted house) surely it is poor Boo. 

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 1, 2007 at 4:46 PM (Answer #4)

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Is "To Kill a Mockingbird" controversial?

To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged repeatedly by the political left and right, who have sought to remove it from libraries for its portrayal of conflict between children and adults; ungrammatical speech; references to sex, the supernatural, and witchcraft; and unfavorable presentation of blacks. Which elements of the book-if any-do you think touch on controversial issues in our contemporary culture? Did you find any of those elements especially troubling, persuasive, or insightful?

Did it touch on controversial issues? Absolutely, both for contemporary society and for the period in which it was published.

Now, a bigger pair of questions might be, is it still controversial, and should it be? I'd say that it is, but it probably shouldn't be in many areas. I suspect many people are offended by, to be frank, the wrong things, such as the use of the "n" word, rather than viewing its use in context.

Did I find any of it troubling? Most of the political material is now socially accepted. I found most troubling the community's acceptance of the potential threats to the children, such as the violent adults.

Greg

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 15, 2007 at 5:06 AM (Answer #5)

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On thing that I think gets overlooked in this book is Lee's sarcastic and almost scathing commentary on the educational system.  The portrayal of the "Dewey Decimal System", of the school district that does nothing for the Ewell boys but try to avoid them, of Miss Caroline with her "new teaching" ways and her failure to understand the community to which she has come.... I find it all a very persuasive and timely examination of how tricks and strategems have been used in the past 40 years to bolster the system.  Consider Atticus - homeschooled, and yet the wisest character in the book. 

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renelane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted November 26, 2007 at 4:49 PM (Answer #6)

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I think the "n" word is still a big controversy in schools. I know my student shave trouble with it, and I hear from parents. Not just in this book, but also Huckleberry Finn and Frederick Douglass. The political and racial issues are still timely, but not as controversial.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted June 14, 2009 at 12:21 AM (Answer #7)

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I can find some justification in considering "To Kill a Mockingbird" not suitable for very young children, who in any case may not find it interesting to read. But otherwise the grounds mentioned in Post #1 for removing this book from libraries in school are not at all justifiable.

This is a book about human values, principle and ethics. It can be an excellent influence on the mind of adolescents. People in that age groups should be encouraged to read the book rather than prevented from reading.

I can understand some people considering controversial on the grounds of their differing view on what is right and wrong, as presented in this book. But disagreement with a particular view point is not a justification for muzzling all the sources presenting such view point.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted June 14, 2009 at 12:46 AM (Answer #8)

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I think it has an anti-school establishment theme which bothers many administrators. It doesn't look too kindly on the school system, and sullymonster is right in that the "unschooled" Atticus is the smartest person.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted April 20, 2010 at 12:02 PM (Answer #9)

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It seems the common thread to all of these posts is that To Kill a Mockingbird is about ignorance. The ignorance of the schools as mentioned—remember Scott got scolded for reading the paper with Atticus; the ignorance of society and their lack of insight into race relations and other concepts. And as for the first post: children and adults do have conflicts; ungrammatical speech is used to develop characters; Halloween, scary forest, full moon, rabid dog, odd snowfall, Boo Radley, and gothic house might be better interpreted as elements used to develop mood and suspense rather than supernatural.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 23, 2010 at 12:25 PM (Answer #10)

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Whilst it may have been controversial at the time, I personally feel that for our contemporary society, the events portrayed in this novel have lost some of their shock value. I personally do not think that this book should be removed from teaching curricula - actually I think the opposite - every student should study it, for its portrayal of a different time in history but one which captures so many issues that we face in our society today.

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