In 1993, when To Kill a Mockingbird had been in print for 33 years straight, author Harper Lee was asked to write an introduction to accompany a new anniversary edition of her Pulitzer Prize–winning book. She refused, on the grounds that as a reader she doesn’t care for introductions. Sounding as matter-of-fact as Atticus and as spirited as Scout, Harper insists “Mockingbird still says what it has to say; it has managed to survive the years without preamble.”
Indeed, Mockingbird still says what it has to say and says it gracefully, intelligently, and with a sly and sustained wit that tempers the lessons imparted by the book, enabling the novel to teach generation after generation the meaning of courage without ever feeling didactic. The characters that populate this novel, from the most minor to the most iconic, remain seared in the public imagination; Atticus reigns as the most noble parent ever brought to life, while Jean Louise—“Scout” to us all—is unforgettable as the precocious, scrappy narrator trying to make sense of the world. Like Scout, Lee was a tomboy in her own right who grew up in a small Alabama town that surely is reflected in the narrator’s observations. Her father was an attorney and a member of the state legislature. And as much as Lee might protest, to completely remove To Kill a Mockingbird from the place and time of its birth would serve to cut the contemporary reader off from a critical moment in American history that critically informs the novel.
In the decade preceding the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, racism was not only rampant but entrenched in the very fabric of society. The civil rights movement was just gaining momentum, with several landmark court cases helping turn the tide. In 1954, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas launched the desegregation of public schools. The Montgomery Bus Boycott followed in 1955, prompted by Rosa Parks’s famous refusal to give up her seat to a white man and her subsequent arrest. Yet that same year saw tragedy when fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. In this case, however, instead of Tom Robinson’s being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, the all-white jury lost no chance in freeing the two white men who had in fact, as history would prove, murdered a young black boy.
It is what has changed in these intervening years and what sorrowfully remains the same that comprises the core of the dynamic conversation readers still enjoy with Lee’s classic. Set in the 1930s, during the searing tyranny of the Great Depression, Maycomb County has little room for compassion; thirty years later laws were changing, but resistance was strong and clear. Though the book was published during a time of great social change pivotal in our civil rights history, modern readers still probe the issues of fairness, justice, and the mutability of human nature with just as much interest and a very clear understanding of the horrors of bigotry. In short, cast through the prism of one small town, the story taps into the most universal truths inherent in our very humanity—innocence, corruption, prejudice, hatred, curiosity, fatalism, respect, courage, and compassion. She has wrapped this all in the gorgeously wrought language and exquisite precision of which only the best writers are capable, allowing Mockingbird to be examined and enjoyed on every level, from literary to legal, while remaining a work of extraordinary pathos and beauty.
By the end of the unit the student will be able to:
1. Explain, using plot points and characters from the book, how the archetype of good versus evil plays out in the novel.
2. Describe the different levels and types of discrimination that occur in the novel, and identify characters that both decry discrimination and perpetrate it.
3. Identify the gothic elements throughout the book, and explain how Lee uses them to set the mood for the book and frame the story.
4. Show Jem’s journey from boy to man, and contrast his adolescent ideas and feelings to Scout’s relative innocence.
5. Compare the idealized versions of fairness and justice to how these concepts play out both in the novel and in modern life.
6. Identify and discuss how Lee uses symbolism, foreshadowing, motifs, themes, and figurative language in the novel, and to what effect.
This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.
Student Chapter Guide
• The Chapter Guide is organized for a chapter-by-chapter study of the novel. Chapter Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.
• Chapter Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading each chapter and to acquaint them generally with the chapter’s content.
• Before chapter Chapter Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
1. Miss Maudie says that “sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand” of another man, such as Atticus. What does Miss Maudie mean by this, and to whom is she specifically referring? What is the author saying about a person’s character?
2. Why do you think Lee chose Scout to tell this story instead of using an omniscient or “all-knowing” narrator, or another character? What is achieved by her narrating the story from the point of view of an adult looking back on her childhood, rather than telling the story in present tense? What clues does the book give that this is what’s occurring?
(The entire section is 705 words.)
beadle: a church official who preserves order
chattel: property; slaves
dictum: a pronouncement
flivver: a small car
piety: religious devotion
quaint: unusual but charming; old-fashioned
1. What started the chain of events leading to Jem’s breaking his arm, according to Jem? Who started it according to Scout?
Jem says that Dill came to town and gave them the idea of making Boo come out. Scout blames the Ewells for the events that unfolded. Atticus says they are both...
(The entire section is 568 words.)
condescended: agreed to with distaste
entailment: a legal issue having to do with limiting the inheritance of property
immune: resistant to
union suit: type of one-piece pajamas or long underwear with a seat flap that buttons
wallowing: dwelling on something; thinking of something insistently
1. What is ending as the chapter begins?
Dill. He is leaving as summer is over and school is beginning. The more carefree days of summer are giving way...
(The entire section is 275 words.)
fraught: marked by; full of
onslaught: an attack
persevere: continue on against difficulty
1. Why does Jem invite Walter Cunningham over for supper?
Walter is too poor to bring lunch and wouldn’t accept the teacher’s loan to buy lunch because he wouldn’t be able to pay her back. Scout starts to beat Walter up because in trying to explain to Miss Caroline why Walter wouldn’t take the money, she got in trouble....
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Indian-heads: special-edition pennies minted largely during the late 1800s that featured a Native American wearing a head dress
melancholy: sadness, gloom
parceled out: divided
quelling: stopping, ceasing
scuppernong: a kind of grape
tyranny: unfair and oppressive rule of one over another
1. How does the rest of Scout’s year at school go?
She remains unchallenged, ahead of her class. It is largely a waste of time.
2. What does Scout find in...
(The entire section is 320 words.)
clapper: the inside piece of a bell that strikes the side and makes the sound
edification: instruction; enlightenment
incomprehensible: unable to be understood or grasped
raveling: disentangling; taking pieces apart
1. How are the dynamics among Scout, Jem, and Dill changing?
Scout is now routinely left out of games because she is a girl, and Jem and Dill play together while Scout sits with Miss Maudie. The three of them are no longer children in...
(The entire section is 347 words.)
cherub: a fat, winged baby angel
collards: a leafy green vegetable
desolate: sorrowful, joyless
kudzu: a fast-growing vine and invasive weed
malignant: cancerous, deadly
teetered: went back and forth
1. What are Jem and Dill doing as the chapter opens?
They are walking to the Radley house to try to get a glimpse of Boo.
2. Who shoots a gun and at whom?
Mr. Radley shoots at an “intruder” on his porch. The intruder is Jem....
(The entire section is 243 words.)
baffled: stymied, totally confused
cleaved: to stick to; split
meditative: thoughtful, pensive
perpetual: ongoing without end
whittle: to shave off parts of a stick with a knife
1. What does Jem finally confess to Scout about what happened when he went back to get his pants?
They had been mended and folded and left on the fence for him. It is as if someone read his mind and knew he would come back for them, somebody who knew him.
2. What happens to the knot-hole in the...
(The entire section is 176 words.)
aberration: an anomaly
caricature: an exaggerated picture, usually unflattering
entrusted: trusted with
meteorological: having to do with weather
touchous: touchy, overly sensitive
twitch: a hunch
1. What happens in Maycomb that hasn’t happened since 1885?
2. Why does Atticus wake the children in the middle of the night?
Miss Maudie’s house is on fire.
3. Who does the fire bring...
(The entire section is 97 words.)
on tenterhooks: eagerly awaiting
trousseau: clothes, linens, and accessories that are gathered by a bride and brought into the marriage
whooped: cried out with excitement
1. What does Cecil Jacobs announce that makes Scout want to fight him?
He says that her daddy defends “niggers.”
2. What reasons does Atticus give for defending Tom Robinson?
Atticus tells Scout that if he didn’t...
(The entire section is 346 words.)
erratically: unusually, without a pattern
Jew’s harp: an ancient reed instrument placed in the mouth and plucked with one finger
tooth and nail: with all one’s might
1. What attributes do Jem and Scout find lacking in their father?
Youth, strength, and a job they can understand. The kids think of their father as old: he wears glasses and he’s nearly fifty. He doesn’t seem like the other fathers—he doesn’t drink, smoke, or play poker. He just reads all the time...
(The entire section is 246 words.)
Philippic: an attack; a tirade
reconnaissance: scouting mission
skulked: tried to hide
1. Why do Jem and Scout hate Mrs. Dubose?
They can do nothing to please her. She is vicious and interrogates them every time they pass by her yard.
2. What is Atticus’s answer to Scout when she asks why he is defending Tom Robinson when everyone else seems to think it’s wrong?
(The entire section is 246 words.)
appalling: sickening, horrific
asafoetida: a strong-smelling resin that is ground and used as a medicine and spice
boded: acted as an omen of
habiliments: clothes, trappings
petticoat: an underskirt or slip worn beneath a dress
rotogravure: special type of printing used especially for high-quality photographs and glossy inserts
1. What change has come over Jem as the second half of the book begins?
He has become an adolescent instead of a child. He’s moody, erratic, and...
(The entire section is 198 words.)
bosom: chest, breasts
curtness: speaking in an abrupt, nearly rude manner
formidable: strong, unassailable
incestuous: marked by romantic or sexual relationships with relations or family
myopic: short- or near-sighted
prerogative: right to do something
shinny: moonshine, booze
1. What does Atticus “try” to do and fail at doing which Scout later realizes requires a woman to do properly? Why might a woman be better at it?
He is pressured by his sister to impress upon the children that they are of...
(The entire section is 285 words.)
antagonize: make angry
gouging: digging into or trying to poke something out
infallible: perfect, foolproof
negligee: a sheer nightgown
penitentiary: jail or prison
pensive: thoughtful, meditative
tentative: exploratory, half-hearted
1. The Finches were long known for good breeding and fairness. What are they known for now?
They’ve turned infamous and their reputation is suffering because of the trial and the racial implications of defending a black man.
2. How do Atticus and Aunt Alexandra...
(The entire section is 265 words.)
begrudge: hold against
bob-white: a small quail with a distinctive two-part call
change of venue: to move a trial to a location different from where the crime allegedly occurred,
usually in order to obtain a more impartial jury
discreet: taking care not to cause embarrassment or call attention to oneself
futility: uselessness, pointlessness
inaudible: soft or silent
1. What is the nightmare that descends upon the Finches?
The Tom Robinson case is becoming serious, and there is a definite sense of danger....
(The entire section is 414 words.)
akimbo: bent, especially arms bent at the elbows with hands on one’s hips
conceded: to give someone else the point or admit that someone else has won
cutting (teeth): having one’s teeth come in, as for babies and then children getting their adult teeth
elucidate: show, explain
gala: a grand party
litigants: the people or parties involved in a lawsuit
prominent: notable, famous
solicitor: an officer of the court that helps manage and advise the attorneys on cases
subpoena: a legal document ordering an individual to appear in court and give testimony
(The entire section is 583 words.)
affirmative: positive, in agreement
amiably: nicely or in a friendly manner
audibly: able to be heard
bantam cock: a small rooster
corrugated iron: wavy or ridged galvanized metal usually used in industrial applications
import: the meaning of something
serene: quiet and calm
sullen: quietly angry
1. Who is the first person to testify?
Heck Tate, the sheriff.
2. On what facts does Atticus concentrate when he questions Sheriff Tate?
(The entire section is 301 words.)
chiffarobe: a dresser with drawers
evoked: brought out
immaterial: unimportant in a matter, not germane
irrelevant: having nothing to do with the subject at hand
tedious: slow-going and overly complicated
1. Why does Mayella think Atticus is mocking her?
Atticus is treating her with respect, calling her “ma’am” and “Miss Mayella,” and she is unaccustomed to being treated politely. She thinks he is teasing her instead.
2. As she testifies, what do we learn about Mayella’s home life? How does this...
(The entire section is 236 words.)
ex cathedra: with the authority of one’s position or standing
grope: try to grasp
impudent: cheeky or rude
predicament: problem, situation
subtlety: lacking obviousness
1. Does Tom admit to chopping up the chiffarobe?
Tom testifies he chopped up the chiffarobe the prior spring, nearly a year before the incident.
2. According to Scout, who is the loneliest person in the world? Why?
Mayella Ewell. She is shunned by whites because her family is trash and by the black community because she is white. Scout figures...
(The entire section is 339 words.)
capital charge: a crime that carries the threat of the death penalty
corroborative evidence: evidence that strengthens or supports the theory of the case and other testimony and evidence
detachment: without emotion
indicted: brought up on formal criminal charges
minute (adj.): very small
perpetrated: committed or carried out by someone
1. What happens when Dolphus Raymond lets Dill have a sip from his paper sack?
Jem, Scout, and Dill discover that he has nothing but a bottle of Coca-Cola in there, but that...
(The entire section is 333 words.)
demurred: objected to
indignant: righteously angry
preliminary: introductory, coming before the main part
psychical: having to do with the psyche or the mind
tacit: understood or indirectly agreed to
1. How does Atticus find out the children are in court?
Aunt Alexandra sends Calpurnia with a note saying the children are missing. Mr. Underwood says they’re up in the balcony and have been there all afternoon.
2. How does Jem feel about the trial as they break for deliberations?
He is convinced Tom will be found...
(The entire section is 291 words.)
conviction: the finding that a defendent is guilty of charges brought against him or her
cynical: jaded; without hope
fatalistic: believing in fate or destiny
heathen: lacking religion and cultivation
quivered: shook slightly
1. As the chapter opens, who is crying and why?
Jem is devastated by the outcome of the trial. He naively believed that justice would trump racism. He weeps and keeps repeating “it ain’t right.”
2. What act brings Atticus to tears?
The kitchen is overflowing with food that has...
(The entire section is 248 words.)
acquittal: the finding that a defendent is not guilty of charges brought against him or her
adamant: sure, unwavering
circumstantial evidence: evidence that does not provide direct proof; its usefulness must be inferred
infantile: babyish, childish
vehement: powerful, fervid
1. How does Atticus react to Bob Ewell’s threat?
He uses dry humor, saying he wished Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco. Miss Stephanie also says that when Ewell asked him if he was too proud to fight him, Atticus replied that he was too old....
(The entire section is 356 words.)
bovine: relating to a cow
charlotte: a molded dessert usually lined with cake or cookies and filled with cream or fruit
communal: belonging to everybody or to the community
deceit: deliberate lie
squalid: dirty, unclean
sulky: dissatisfied; pouting
1. What is ironic about the concerns of Aunt Alexandra’s missionary circle?
They are concerned with the welfare of an African tribe around the world, but treat poorly the African-Americans that are nearly members of their families.
2. What is...
(The entire section is 194 words.)
demise: death; end
hot gas: meaningless talk
scowling: frowning in anger
veneer: outer covering
1. Who is getting to be more like a girl every day?
According to Scout, Jem is acting sensitive and squeamish.
2. How does Helen react to the news of Tom’s death?
She faints to the ground, and Atticus and Calpurnia half-carry, half-walk her to the cabin.
3. How does the rest of Maycomb react to Tom’s death?
Most said it showed Tom’s true nature, that he had no hope or plan, that of...
(The entire section is 135 words.)
recluse: someone who chooses to be alone
1. What does Scout now regret doing?
She regrets spying on Boo and trying to get him to come out of his house.
2. What secret do the children discover that Atticus has known all along?
He knows they were the ones Mr. Radley shot at the night Jem lost his pants.
3. “The events of the summer hung over us like smoke in a closed room” is an example of what? How does this help set the tone?...
(The entire section is 191 words.)
contraption: machine, especially one built by hand
National Recovery Act: An act passed during the Great Depression that gave the president authority to regulate industry and establish a public works program.
notoriety: ill fame
1. What three notable things happen in Maycomb?
Bob Ewell gets and loses a job with the public works program. He is fired for laziness but blames Atticus. Someone breaks into Judge Taylor’s house while he is there. Link Deas hires Helen Robinson, but she is stalked and harassed by Bob Ewell.
(The entire section is 115 words.)
primeval: basic; intrinsic to one’s nature
repertoire: collection of skills
1. The children hear a mockingbird singing in the Radley’s tree. Of what is the mockingbird a symbol in the book?
2. How does Mrs. Merriweather translate the Latin phrase, “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” for the more simple folks attending the pageant?
“From the mud to the stars.”
3. What happens to Jem and Scout as...
(The entire section is 135 words.)
garishly: in an obnoxiously bright manner
jutting: sticking out
perforated: marked with small, usually regular, holes
1. What does examination of Scout’s ham costume reveal?
Bob Ewell tried to stab her.
2. Who saved the children?
(The entire section is 42 words.)
blandly: without feeling
utmost: all of; with everything
1. Why does Atticus have them talk on the porch instead of in the house?
Boo will be more comfortable. It is darker out there and more private for him.
2. What misunderstanding do Atticus and Heck Tate have? What decision does Heck Tate finally make and why?
Atticus first thinks that Heck Tate is trying to cover up the fact that Jem killed Bob Ewell and says that they must report it even though Jem acted was in self-defense. In fact it was Boo who saved...
(The entire section is 318 words.)
acquiescence: giving up
enacting: acting out; playing roles in a drama
stoop: bend down
1. What does Boo ask Scout? What does it reveal about him?
He asks her to take him home. It shows that he is actually shy and gentle and scared being out of his house, not the scary monster of the town lore.
2. When does Scout see Boo again?
Never. He goes back into his house, and she never lays eyes on him again.
3. What does Scout do as she looks out from the Radley...
(The entire section is 184 words.)
1. Who is the narrator of the novel?
C. Jean Louise
D. Harper Lee
E. Tom Robinson
2. Who is described in the book as a “malevolent phantom”?
A. Bob Ewell
B. Tom Robinson
C. Link Deas
D. Heck Tate
E. Boo Radley
3. Which term best describes the author’s tone toward Miss Caroline and the children’s “formal” education?
(The entire section is 965 words.)
1. In Part One, Atticus defines courage as “when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” Using this definition, which characters show courage in To Kill a Mockingbird, and how do they do so?
Courage is a main theme in the novel, standing out clearly against the backdrop of cowardice and hypocrisy shown by many other characters. Mrs. Dubose, one of the Finch’s neighbors, is one complex example, and the person to whom Atticus is referring when he defines courage this way for Jem. A caustic, racist old woman set in her ways, she had taken morphine as a painkiller for years. When she finds out she had mere months to live, she is...
(The entire section is 3067 words.)