How are the movies A Time to Kill and To Kill a Mockingbird similar?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are several ways in which the movie A Time to Kill and To Kill a Mockingbird are similar.

First, both stories deal with black men who have been accused of a crime, tried in a court of white males in the South. (In both movies, a rape has taken place or has been alleged to have taken place.)

Second, in both movies, the lawyers are committed to doing what they are able to give each black man a fair trial.

Third, racism plays an enormous role in what the verdict of the trial will be.

A Time to Kill is based on a John Grisham novel written in the 1980s. In the film adaptation, the author addresses the rape of a young black girl by two white men, irrefutable evidence of the guilt of those men, the sense that the rapists will go free, and the father's decision to take the law into his own hands, believing a trail in the South will never convict white men for the rape of a black child.

Set in Canton, Mississippi, the film revolves around the rape of a young girl and the arrest of the rapists and their subsequent murder by the girl's father, Carl Lee Hailey. 

In To Kill a Mockingbird, based on Harper Lee's novel, racial inequality also plays a large part. In addition, there is also irrefutable evidence to exonerate Tom Robinson of his guilt in Mayella Ewell's "rape," but it is disregarded—because the word of a white woman would never be doubted in the Depression South because of the words of a black man.

...the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. 

The theme of "loss of innocence" is also present in both movies: in A Time to Kill, Carl's daughter's rape robs her of her innocence (among other things); in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, it is primarily Scout (and to an extent, Jem) who loses her innocence in learning of the evil that resides in some men (and the goodness in others), even as Bob Ewell tries to murder Scout and Jem one dark night.

There are several strong similarities between the two movies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Describe at least three ways the movies A Time to Kill and To Kill a Mockingbird are different.

In the films A Time to Kill and To Kill a Mockingbird, there are several different elements.

Both movies deal with the question of racist attitudes towards blacks in the South.

However, while Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the Depression South, Grisham's A Time to Kill is not. One might believe that this would lead to very different responses by the court toward crimes allegedly committed by blacks against white people, but there is no difference in how both men are automatically "judged as guilty" by many before the trial even begins.

The characters of Atticus and Jake are very different. Atticus is a strong role model for his children, and a true gentleman. His wife is dead, so he does everything with thoughts of how his behavior will affect his children's view of him and of the world—as their only parent. Jake, on the other hand, is... easygoing white lawyer...

This gives the audience the idea that perhaps he is not as vested in Carl's fate at the beginning of the movie, as he should be. This is supported by the fact that Jake never takes Carl seriously when he makes suggestively threatening comments about the men who raped his daughter. There is also the fact that Jack almost has an affair with his intern—this does not speak strongly to Jake's moral character.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is alone in his fight to find Tom Robinson not guilty. However, Jake has several people he can turn to in order to provide strong legal counsel for Carl.

There are two little girls centrally involved in the story, but for very different reasons. Carl's daughter, Tonya, loses her innocence as she is beaten, raped and left for dead. Scout's loss of innocence comes from seeing an innocent man, Tom Robinson, convicted because he is black; she is also the victim of an attack by a white man with every intention of murdering her and her brother Jem.

Finally, in A Time to Kill, the audience is given the opportunity to get to know Carl: he is a man steeped in realism—he knows his daughter's attackers man well go free; and he is ready to sacrifice his freedom—even his life—to make sure they don't get away with the crime they have committed. For this reason, Carl kills the men who brutalized Tonya (his daughter). As a character, he is studied in some depth. However, in To Kill a Mockingbird, this is not the case for Tom Robinson:

Scholars also note the black characters in the novel are not fully explored...

While the movies both deal with key elements of racial conflict and discrimination, Atticus' case is doomed from the start; whereas Jake's case stirs many people up enough to threaten him and his family and his intern, there is some small hope that Jake will be able to appeal to his jurors—bringing about a miraculous outcome to the trial.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on