Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What are differences in the movie and the book To Kill a Mockingbird?  

Expert Answers

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

Although the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) is a superlative adaptation of Harper Lee's novel, like most movies, it suffers primarily from a time perspective. It is virtually impossible for a two hour movie to include every aspect of its parent novel, and TKAM is no exception. Many of the scenes and characters are absent from the movie. For instance, the characters of Dolphus Raymond and Aunt Alexandra are missing. None of Scout's school scenes are included in the film, nor is the scene with Dolphus Raymond. One of my favorite scenes, the children's building of the "morphodite snowman" followed by the fire that burned Miss Maudie's house, is also left out of the film.

Nevertheless, the film is still one of the best adapted screenplays ever, and Gregory Peck's performance as Atticus won him the Oscar for Best Actor; his portrayal as Atticus earned him the honor of "greatest movie hero" of the 20th century by the American Film Institute. The movie won two other Oscars, including one for screenwriter Horton Foote. The film was nominated for Best Picture, but it lost to Lawrence of Arabia.  

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

What are some major differences between the novel and film of To Kill a Mockingbird?

A couple of major differences between the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Robert Mulligan, and Harper Lee's original novel is that the film version made quite a few changes to the characters and the courtroom scene. The film version eliminated a few different characters, both major and minor. Two characters important to the original novel that are missing in the film are Aunt Alexandra and Uncle Jack. A couple of minor characters are also missing, including Dill's aunt Miss Rachel and Mr. Underwood. In the film, Miss Stephanie Crawford plays the role of Dill's aunt, and the two separate characters of Miss Stephanie and Miss Rachel were melded into one role.Changes were also made to Mrs. Dubose's character.  Mrs. Dubose actually does make a brief appearance in the film, but her character is changed slightly. Instead of being called Mrs. Dubose, she is called Miss Dubose. Characterizing her as an unmarried spinster reduces some of the greatness in her that Atticus wanted his children to see in Lee's novel. In the film, she is no longer a great widow that has fallen into a terrible state due to illness as she is in the book. Instead, in the film she is just a cantankerous old woman who no one has ever wanted to get near, including a potential husband. As a result, Miss Dubose is used by Atticus in the film as only a lesson of tolerance and the ability to maintain one's civility at all times; she is no longer the  lesson of courage Atticus teaches his children in the book. The lesson of courage is left out of the film entirely because Jem never goes and reads to Miss Dubose. One change in the film made to the courtroom scene concerns Mayella Ewell's cross-examination. In the film, during Atticus's...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

cross-examination of Mayella, after having Tom Robinson stand before the court, Atticus throws him a glass from the judge's bench and asks Robinson to catch it; Robinson very deftly catches the glass in his strong right hand. Atticus then asks Robinson to catch another glass in his left hand, and Robinson explains to the court that his left arm and hand are crippled because he got them caught in a cotton gin as a child. In the book, Reverend Sykes explains to Jem, Scout, and Dill how Robinson's hand and arm became crippled. In the book, Robinson's arm has an obviously shriveled appearance. Since Brock Peters, the actor who played Robinson in the 1962 version, was obviously strong in both arms, the director had to invent a believable way for the information of Robinson's disability to become known.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some major differences between the novel and film of To Kill a Mockingbird?

Needless to say, not every scene of a 200+ page novel can be included in a two hour film adaption, and such is also the case with To Kill a Mockingbird. Differences between the two versions include the following:

  • Among the characters not included in the movie are Aunt Alexandra, Uncle Jack, Cousin Francis, Mr. Avery, Miss Stephanie, Link Deas, Miss Caroline, Miss Gates, Dolphus Raymond and Burris Ewell.
  • Important scenes left out of the movie include all of Scout's classroom scenes; Christmas at Finch Landing; the children's visit to Calpurnia's church; and the Missionary Circle tea.
  • Changes between the novel and movie include one of the opening scenes when Scout invites Mr. Cunningham into the house when he attempts to quietly repay his debt to Atticus; in the novel, Atticus deliberately allows Cunningham to leaves his goods anonymously. Another difference comes when Bob Ewell spits in Atticus' face. In the novel, he encounters Atticus downtown, but in the movie, he expectorates on Atticus in front of Tom Robinson's house.
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, differ from the movie?

In the beginning, we miss many of the school experiences that Scout encounters in the book. We never really meet Miss Caroline or see her struggle to educate the 1st grade. Therefore, the issue with the cootie and Burris' Ewell never gets addressed in the beginning. We do get to see Walter Cunningham go to Scout's for lunch. The Christmas scene at Finch's landing gets skipped. Miss Stephanie Crawford plays the role of both herself and Miss Rachel Haverford, thus the Dill character calls her Aunt Stephanie.

Much of the description of the Finch background and narration from Scout about their lives and times gets over-looked. The scene with her describing the waste that school became, many moments with Dill, and the talks about gentle-breeding get skipped.

I think if something felt like it was not a part of the Boo Radley storyline or the trial storyline, it got skipped. Most of these instances were the Finch family shadings. These are likely some of the most important parts that Lee intended to point out in her book because it is from these perspectives that we watch a child mature and grow in to a moral and humane adult writer.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the differences between how well racism is presented in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird as opposed to in the film?

In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee spends a great deal of time developing the theme of racism, whereas in the film of the same title, racism is only briefly mentioned.In the novel, Lee develops the theme of racism alongside Scout and Jem as they mature. The more they mature, the more they learn about racism. More specifically, they have multiple experiences that tell them about the racist world, aside from learning about racism from Tom Robinson's trial and from slanderous comments about their father given by kids at school and people like Mrs. Dubose. For example, Scout learns about racism as she joins the ladies of her aunt's missionary circle for refreshments and hears them hypocritically speak out for the needs of the African tribe called the Mrunas while simultaneously saying the African Americans of their community need to stop grumbling about social injustices and be content in their rightful places of subordination. Scout also learns about racism from hypocritical comments made by her third-grade teacher protesting against Hitler's treatment of the Jews while also saying the African Americans of their community need to be put in their rightful places of subordination.In contrast, many of the above scenes do not take place in the film. Instead, other than the slanderous comments from kids at school, Scout and Jem mostly learn about racism during the trial. In fact, it is during the trial scene that the theme of racism is developed the most. In the film, during Tom Robinson's cross-examination, when asked by Mr. Gilmer why he spent so much time helping Mayella Ewell, Robinson makes a very fatal statement:

I felt sorry for her because ...

He is never allowed to finish his statement because Mr. Gilmer and the spectators of the court are in an uproar that he, a black man, should feel sorry for a white woman. When we feel sympathy for another person, as opposed to empathy, we automatically place ourselves in a position of superiority over that person because it is that person, not us, who is in the terrible circumstance. In the segregated South, the African American should feel inferior at all times. Hence, the film implies that Robinson's statement of sympathy sealed his fate--it is the primary reason why the jury returned with the guilty verdict. It is also through Robinson's expressed feelings of sympathy and the outrage his feelings provoke that the theme of racism is developed the most in the film.In contrast, while in the novel, Robinson does make a similar statement and Mr. Gilmer does negatively comment on it, it's not evident Robinson's statement of sympathy alone sealed his fate. In the novel, Lee asserts that his fate was sealed the moment "Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed," and nothing Robinson said or could have said would have changed that (Ch. 25).Hence, as we can see, Lee spends a great deal of time developing the theme of racism along with the children's changing and maturing perception. In contrast, in the film, the theme of racism is developed primarily during the trial scene.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on