To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The city of Chicago chose To Kill a Mockingbird for it’s One City One Book program in 2001. Of all the great books in the world, this is the book that the mayor and city librarians and educators believed was the most relevant and meaningful for their city, even though Harper Lee’s book was 40 years old at the time.

Told from the perspective of a six year-old girl, the novel takes place in Alabama during the Great Depression. It’s a rich story on it’s own, and it enhances our study of the Civil Rights Era in the United States and our Human Rights research projects.

Here are a few resources to enhance our reading

Much of the vocabulary is from another era and time (scuppernongs?), so it’s helpful to have this website open while you read it. It’s organized by chapter and includes the word in context, definitions, and sometimes pictures (scuppernongs!).

To help us appreciate where some of the characters are coming from, it’s important to see them in context of their epoch – both the Great Depression and the era of Jim Crow laws:

How does To Kill a Mockingbird reflect the historical context of the 1930's?
What was it like to live in Alabama within the United States in the time of the Great Depression?

You can read the novel to yourself, or you can read along with an audiobook stored on myConcordia English 8 Resources.

If you prefer to read the novel on your laptop, you can download a full text PDF from myConcordia, too.

Harper Lee went through ~50 revisions before she (and a publisher!) was happy with her novel. This says a lot about her dedication to the story and to the complexity of the plot. Everything means something. One way to kill our enjoyment of the book is to pick out every single significant event. We won’t do that. You will write an essay, but I will tell you now your choices (choose one).

  1. Compare and contrast the two forms of courage presented in To Kill a Mockingbird. What incidents exemplify these two types?
  2. What “mockingbirds” can you identify in the novel? Explain your choices.
  3. Harper Lee presents contrasting practices of religion and of education, very often exposing hypocrisies in their formal expression while validating informal practice. Explain with plot details what seems to be Harper Lee’s view toward either (choose one) religion or education.

The Class of 2015 added their insight to these essay questions on the wiki.

We will discuss some guiding questions about the novel, some of which I will assign ahead of time. Please download this TKaM Study Guide. (Study Guide answers generated by the Class of 2015.)

And yes, there is a movie, and we will watch it.

To Kill a Mockingbird Polish movie poster.


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