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To Kill a Mockingbird a Southern Gothic Novel by Harper Lee
Why? "He would tell her the courthouse news, and would say he hoped with all his heart she’d have a good day tomorrow. He would return his hat to his head, swing me to his shoulders in her very presence, and we would go home in the twilight. It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived. "
Harper Lee Born April 28, 1926
About the author Harper Lee grew up in Monroeville, Alabama Her father, a lawyer and state legislator, was a descendant of General Robert E Lee was an avid reader and from a young age wanted to become a writer Attended University of Alabama and later moved to NYC to pursue a writing career After two years of writing and revising, To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960
About the novel To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate success Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 Voted best novel of the century by Library Journal in 1999 1991 survey by the Library of Congress asked readers to rank books that had made a significant difference in their lives. TKM ranked second after the Bible. TKM is the only novel Lee ever published For more than 40 years, Lee has declined to comment on her novel, letting it speak for itself
Gothic Literature Common characteristics like brooding atmosphere, haunted castles/mansions, isolated settings, ghosts, spirits, vampires, mysterious disappearances/reappearances, supernatural occurrences, sensational plot lines Central aim – to evoke terror in its reader
American Gothic 19 th century onwards Quotes from an expert on American Gothic, Teresa Goddu: “American literature is infiltrated by the popular, the disturbing, and the hauntings of history” “American gothic literature criticizes America’s national myth of new-world innocence by voicing the cultural contradictions that undermine the nation’s claim to purity and equality. ” What do these quotes mean?
American Gothic Cont. “Showing how these contradictions contest and constitute national identity even as they are denied, the gothic tells of the historical horrors that make national identity possible yet must be repressed in order to sustain it. ” Examples of contemporary American gothic include the horror fiction of Stephen King and the vampire fiction of Anne Rice
Southern Gothic Often seen as the primary site of American gothic because the South is home to values and attributes not necessarily welcome in the rest of the country Edgar Allan Poe seen as the first writer of gothic and his status as a Southerner makes him the first southern gothic writer Issues of race, alienation, and otherness are central to southern gothic
Southern Gothic Cont. Wikipedia states: Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may or may not dabble in hoodoo,  ambivalent gender roles and decayed or derelict settings,  grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or coming from poverty, alienation, crime, and violence. To what extent to these exist in To Kill a Mockingbird?
Gothic Elements in TKM Unnatural snowfall Fire that destroys Miss Maudie’s house Otherness: Boo Radley is an unseen and unknown figure hence he is a ghost like presence in the novel; the Ewells, Cunninghams and other country folk are the others to Scout. Also Caroline Fisher? Alienation: many characters are profoundly alienated from their culture – Scout, Atticus, Miss Maudie, Mrs. Dubose Setting: the crumbling mansions and homes of the south, as well as the crumbling southern way of life, are analogous to the castles and medieval settings of British gothic Night of the Halloween party, when Bob Ewell attacks the children Atticus shooting the mad dog Hauntings and the Supernatural: the mysterious gifts in the knothole in the tree, the rescue from the murder attempt, these are examples of supernatural like events
Gothic Elements in TKM Many of these elements are out of place in Maycomb, as it is usually a quiet, predictable society. They create tension in the novel and some of them foreshadow the troublesome events of the trial and its aftermath.
Style Bildungsroman: “novel of education” or “coming of age novel” – Lee chooses a form of fiction that explicitly deals with the maturation of its protagonist Protagonist - Hero Antagonist - Villain Duality: the novel is structured at virtually every level around dualities. The tension created by the opposition of themes, narrative points of view, communities, genders and so on provides a cohesiveness in the novel. Narration/narrative perspective: double-layered narration is used. The mature Scout explicitly tells the story at the outset of the novel and at its end. In the middle, the story is told from the perspective of Scout as a child. However, there are points in the novel where the two narrators are almost co-existing.
Style Cont. Language: Lee employs colloquial language – especially in the speech of the characters (dialogue) and in the descriptions of setting Metaphors/symbols: Lee employs several central symbols in the novel: Mockingbird Snowman Mad dog Boo Radley Clothing – esp. Scout’s clothes Buildings
Theme is the underlying meaning of the story, a universal truth, a significant statement the story is making about society, human nature, or the human condition. Themes can also be tied to the morals of a story.
Themes Race Relations History vs. the Present Growing up Conformity vs. Individuality Search for Identity Gender Roles America divided Stereotypes Exposed Justice vs. the Law Myths of Childhood Innocence Compassion Education Prejudice/Discrimination Good vs Evil Social Inequality Morals Courage/Bravery
Characters Scout – narrator; girl; 6 years old; good reader; first grade; teacher doesn’t like her; her teacher is threatened by Scout’s intelligence; Finch Family – Simon Finch was stingy. Methodist. Pious. Owned slaves. Trapper. apothecary (old time pharmacist). Died rich. Land rich. Atticus Finch – Jem and Scout’s Dad. Lawyer (attorney). Atticus’ brother (John Hale Finch) - doctor
Charcters Jem – boy; 5 th grade; 10 years old; Scout’s older brother; broke his arm; loves football; doesn’t want to hang with Scout at school; close to Scout at home Dill – neighbor (summer with Miss Rachel); boy; friends with Jem and Scout; curious boy; points out mysteries in neighborhood; 7 years old; little; Southern; talkative; Charles Baker Harris Miss Caroline Fisher – Scout’s teacher; doesn’t like Scout because Scout already knows how to read; 21; high heels; peppermint; bad first impression
Characters Arthur “Boo” Radley – Son of Mr. Radley. Lives in the Radley house. Neighbor to Jem and Scout. High strung at times. Mr. Radley locked him away and for 15 years he was never seen. One day, Boo stabbed his dad. He was 33 years old. Calpurnia – Finch’s cook; woman; teaches Jem and Scout handwriting; like a mother to Jem and Scout; strong; black; Scout’s idea of ‘ouble identity/duel existence (linking to idea of duality within the play) when she’s with the Finches compared to with black community; also has a son (Zeebo)
Compassion Thematic Statement: A lot, some none Finches have much compassion Each other Tom Robinson Tom’s family Calpurnia Atticus to kids Boo Neighbors – Mrs. Dubose
Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for anothwho is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Aunt Alexandra Towards Scout; Motherless/ Tomboy Tom Robinson has compassion for Mayella Scout has compassion for Jem – wants to help him heal
Compassion Atticus has compassion for Boo Sheriff has compassion for Boo – Mr. Ewell “fell on his knife” Boo has compassion for the kids – saves them from Mr. Ewell Atticus has compassion for the Cunninghams. Accepts food from Mr. C for legal service. Mr. C has compassion for Atticus when the mob came.
Compassion Black community have compassion for Atticus – reverse racism for defending Tom; stand support him as he leaves the courtroom. Rev Sykes towards the kids – lets them sit with him in the courtroom. Atticus has compassion for Dill – he treats him as one of his own Miss Rachel – lets Dill stay for the summer Aunt Alexandra has compassion for Atticus – hard to be a single parent
Compassion Thematic Statement: Compassion can be expressed in many different ways. We all need to have compassion for others. Comes in different ways and towards different people. Different people show compassion in different ways. We all need to have compassion for others because it encourages others and makes them feel good. If you have compassion, you will go far in life.