Introduction to To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee. Published in 1960, it was an instantaneous success, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and numerous other awards. Six-year-old Scout’s narration blends innocence, compassion, and a stubborn sense of justice into a compelling story that imparts valuable lessons about morality and the unexpected complexities of life. The novel was adopted for study in classrooms as early as 1963, with many educators feeling that the novel’s focus on racial inequality, justice, and the nature of courage would connect with young readers. It has since become a mainstay in English classrooms and is one of the most beloved and frequently taught books in the United States. Furthermore, Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, has become a cultural icon, inspiring generations of lawyers and legal scholars to uphold justice and fight for a more equitable world. 

To Kill a Mockingbird played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Although Lee was not directly involved in the movement, the novel’s publication in 1960 helped spark discussions among both white and Black readers about racial tensions and injustice, especially in the rural South. The novel’s cast of sympathetic characters express progressive beliefs about race and class, whereas the more villainous characters are openly racist and classist. Furthermore, Atticus’s decision to defend Tom Robinson, despite knowing what it would cost him and his family, has gone down in literary history as an example of bravery in the face of a corrupt justice system.

A Brief Biography of Harper Lee

Harper Lee (1926–2016) was born Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama. Her best friend growing up was Truman Capote, the author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Both moved to New York City, where they found success as writers. Lee published To Kill A Mockingbird in 1960, and the novel has since gone on to become one of the most widely read books in all of history. Although Lee never married, she was not reclusive. Known for being pleasant and witty, she granted a few interviews when To Kill a Mockingbird appeared in 1960, but afterward she fought fiercely to stay out of the public eye. For years, there was much speculation about her inaccessibility and why she completed only one book. 2015, however, saw the release of a second book of Lee’s, Go Set a Watchman, which is considered to be the first—and very different—draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Frequently Asked Questions about To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

At the beginning of chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem and Scout go outside to shoot the new air-rifles they received for Christmas. Knowing that Jem will want to try shooting at living...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 12:02 pm (UTC)

4 educator answers

To Kill a Mockingbird

In this novel, a mockingbird comes to symbolize a person who brings beauty into the world and never inflicts harm on anyone. In some ways, this description could apply to Mayella Ewell. After all,...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:22 am (UTC)

6 educator answers

To Kill a Mockingbird

Arthur "Boo" Radley is undoubtedly one of life's mockingbirds, an innocent soul who's never done any harm to anyone. Unfortunately, the people of Maycomb don't understand his reclusiveness and are...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:12 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Out of all of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird who experience some sort of character development, Jem changes the most. Scout certainly changes as well, but because she is so young, the...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:31 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Innocence is an important theme in To Kill a Mockingbird, and the characters that are most often linked to this theme are Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Readers might also see innocence in Scout and...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 1:18 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus Finch is a hero because he chooses to do the right thing, even when it would be easier and safer for him not to. When he is asked to defend Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of raping a...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:12 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Dill is depicted as a sensitive adolescent in To Kill a Mockingbird, and he loses his innocence in chapter 19 after listening to Mr. Gilmner disrespect Tom Robinson during his cross-examination....

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 12:47 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

There is no set formula for a classic work of literature and, at a time when the concept of a literary canon is often disputed, little agreement on what the word "classic" means. However, there are...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:31 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

During the controversial trial in part two of the novel, Bob and Mayella Ewell boldly lie on the witness stand and accuseTom Robinson of assaulting and raping Mayella. When Atticus cross-examines...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:45 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Set in Macomb, Alabama, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird revolves around the moral, emotional, and mental development of the protagonist and narrator, Scout Finch. Much of her development is...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 2:25 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

It is a sin to kill Tom Robinson for the same reason that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. After the children receive air-rifles, Atticus tells Jem that while, ideally, he'd prefer they only...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:59 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

There are two principal ways in which To Kill a Mockingbird is an important book. First, it is a classic work of American literature that exhibits all of Harper Lee's skill as an author—there is a...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 12:03 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

There are two specific moments in To Kill a Mockingbird that significantly affect Jem's childhood innocence. The first moment takes place in chapter 7 when Jem attempts to leave a note for the...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 2:50 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Scout loses her innocence as she watches the Tom Robinson trial. She sees what a good defense her father Atticus mounts of Tom Robinson; Atticus shows that because of his withered and disabled...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:48 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Because this story is so rich in character development and conflicts, it is hard to point to just one moral that the story supports. The following are all morals that are depicted in To Kill a...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:56 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Over fifty years after its original publication, To Kill a Mockingbird still faces some challenges over its inclusion in school classrooms and libraries. The most common complaint against the book...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:49 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee originally intended to name her book Atticus, which would've been the obvious choice, given that Atticus Finch is a major character in the book. But she changed her mind and chose to use...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:25 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird was the reigning achievement of Harper Lee's career. Despite her astounding success, however, the writer's famous down-to-earth (and often blunt) nature remained intact....

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 4:13 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is full of many very important messages. But if we had to choose only one, it would be the importance of judging people based on their actions rather than their appearance....

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:39 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To Kill a Mockingbird

Scout shows her innocence at many points in the novel, and especially in moments when she does not fully grasp the meaning of certain situations. Perhaps the most striking example is the scene at...

Latest answer posted September 9, 2020, 11:45 am (UTC)

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Summary