Why does Harper Lee split the book into two parts and why does she include the information she does in part one?

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ajmchugh | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Part 1 of To Kill A Mockingbird focuses mainly on the children's obsession with Boo Radley.  In the novel's early chapters, readers come to recognize Scout, Jem, and Dill as curious children who entertain themselves by trying to get a glimpse at their mysterious neighbor.  Despite Atticus's advice to leave Boo alone, the children keep at their games and fail to understand the fact that their behavior is hurtful and unfair. 

In Part 2 of the novel, Harper Lee shifts her focus to the trial of Tom Robinson, which is a clearer example of the social (in this case racial) injustice that was all too common in the 1930s in the South.  Watching their father defend Tom Robinson, who is obviously innocent of the crime of which he's accused, teaches the children that it is unfair to prejudge otherse and that a person's social/economic status does not dictate his or her worth as a person. 

At the novel's end, and after having been saved by Boo Radley, Scout is able to finally understand Atticus's advice that we can never really understand others until we put ourselves in their situation.  The novel's two distinct focuses (the children/Boo Radley in Part 1 and the Tom Robinson trial and its fallout in Part 2) serve to teach readers that injustice is present in all facets of society, and Lee successfully brings these ideas together at the end of the novel.

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