What are some common lit response/analysis topics for To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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(One thing that may be very helpful is the Homework Help that has any number of thoughtful questions and their responses.)

Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel certainly has well-developed plot elements such as characterization, themes, motifs, symbolism, point of view, and many thought-provoking questions can be formed from analyses of these elements.

Here are some suggestions for the elements of the plot:

Characterization

1. In the Introductory to The Scarlet Letter, "The Custom-House," Nathaniel Hawthorne writes, 

Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.

Q:  Consider how Hawthorne's remarks apply to the descriptions in Chapter 13 of Maycomb as "growing inward" because new people moved there and "the same families married the same families" until people all started to resemble one another. (i.e. How is moving away better than remaining in the same small environment?)

2. To Kill a Mockingbird is considered a bildungsroman, or novel of maturation.

Q: How do the various encounters of the children with members of the Maycomb community help to bring about their maturing attitudes and decisions? Use at least 3 examples.

3. Atticus is a single parent.

Q: How does he fulfill both roles of mother and father, or how does he arrange that the children have mothering?

Themes and motifs 

1. Hypocrisy abounds in the hearts of many in Maycomb. 

Q: What are some instances of hypocrisy and what do Jem and/or Scout learn from them?

2. Misjudgments abound in this novel, some are from innocence and some from bias.

Q: What are some of these inaccurate judgments made against innocent people? Explain what Scout and Jem learn from their experiences with of bias?

Point of View

1. The narrative is told from the point of view of a young girl, but she is an adult at the time of the narrative.

Q. How do these conditions influence what the reader learns from and about Scout?

2. Mr. Underwood admittedly feels very negatively about African-Americans.

Q: How does his attitude change and what action does he take when his attitude changes? What is the significance of this character's change?

Symbolism

1. The mockingbird is a symbol. 

Q: How does this symbol and its meaning support other elements of the narrative such as theme? In your discussion, examine at least two characters and how their circumstances and actions explain the symbolic meaning of the mockingbird.

2. Consider newspapers as symbols 

Q: How does the Mobile Register grow in symbolic meaning from Scout's mention of it in the first chapter, and how Atticus reads it and turns to it in stressful times?

Sources:

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