To Kill A Mockingbird. Time to pull it off the shelf and take another look. It is not only history, it is a timely look at racial tension and understanding. Above the Law calls it America’s favorite novel. It is a beautiful coming of age story and a story of justice, a lack of justice, and doing the right thing. As we follow Scout and Jem through childhood we understand our grandparents, ourselves, and both sides of a long racial conflict. Let’s take a look at the way some of the characters are woven together for a story rich in characters and conflict. We especially love a good look at the minor characters in our discussion group.
Questions of Character
Who is the protagonist? Jean Louise Finch? Or can a case be made for Atticus? Who shows the most growth as a character? Scout? Jem? Atticus has a formed character, but we slowly see a fuller revelation of his character throughout the novel.
What purpose do little Dill and his curious pranks serve? Mostly to keep Boo Radley in mind. It wouldn’t do to introduce him in the beginning and forget him until the climax of the novel.
Who is the mockingbird that it is a sin to kill? Is it Tom Robinson? Or is it Boo Radley?
Much is made of the old families staying on their properties for generations. But in a feministic twist, Atticus and his brother leave home, and Aunt Alexandra is the one to stay on the homestead and concern herself with the reputations of each Maycomb family. Ironically, she is concerned that Scout have a traditionally feminine rearing.
Calpurnia is an educated and literate black woman with a literate, garbage collector son. She stands in contrast to the uneducated black population of Maycomb, with a foot in both worlds and is a bridge of understanding to the reader. Her being a black woman is also in contrast to white, uneducated, abused, and hopeless Mayella. Even in trying to be clean, Mayella falls far below the sophistication of a woman like Calpurnia.
The rich conflicts in the novel are worth a writing assignment for a student. Man v. society is the obvious one that volumes have been written about. Man v. man provides a wealth of material for your consideration. Some of our class favorites were:
Tom Robinson v. Bob Ewell
Atticus Finch v. Bob Ewell
Jem v. Mrs. Dubose
Scout v. Aunt Alexandra or Miss Stephanie Crawford
Miss Maudie v Stephanie Crawford
An interesting character to consider is Dolphus Raymond. This is the man who lives as he chooses and gives the people something to talk about so that his mixed race family is not an object of their cruelty. He proves kind and thoughtful to the children. He is yet another “mockingbird” that does no harm. There are a number of other suggested “mockingbirds” in the book. Who else would you consider such an innocent?
Almost anyone can identify with Scout and Jem, despite different backgrounds and life stories. The introduction of life’s problems into an innocent perception of the world is a universal experience. There is so much to love about this book; I hope you give it (another) read!
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