Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What literary period would Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird fall under?

Expert Answers

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

Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. At that time, people were writing in all sorts of styles and following different movements. The literary movement that best fits Lee's novel, however, is the Southern Gothic movement.

While the Gothic movement covers novels written in the 18th and 19th centuries, which often took place in the late-medieval or Gothic period and were written mostly by Europeans, the movement crossed the Atlantic and found a new home in the American South. To the post-Civil War writers, the world of the antebellum South was full of antiquated beliefs and dilapidated ruins and captured the imaginations of writers in the same way the Gothic period had for their predecessors. Gothic themes of the decay and ruin of a glorious history are joined in Southern Gothic literature by studies of race and gender issues.

To Kill a Mockingbird does include Southern Gothic themes and motifs. Like traditional Gothic stories, TKAM includes the markers of a good horror story. Boo Radley's house is haunted and creepy, Bob Ewell provides an example of total evil, and there are even mysterious moments of terror, like Bob Ewell's attack on the Radley house.

One aspect of the novel that sets it apart from the Southern Gothic tradition, however, is the humor in it. Stories like "A Rose for Emily" or "Child of God" are not exactly known for their laugh-out-loud humor. TKAM, on the other hand, made me laugh until I cried when Scout is called out in her giant ham costume. The "coming of age" aspect of the story lends itself to humorous looks at Scout's antics and observations, which provide some relief to the Southern Gothic seriousness. 

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
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team