To Kill a Mockingbird, the novel by Harper Lee, was published in 1960.
It is the moving story of childhood in a small Southern town during the Great Depression, as well as a tale of racial inequity, courage, and of coming of age for the main character and for our country. In 1991, the Library of Congress conducted a survey of readers, which found that this was among the highest ranked books that made a difference in people?s lives, surpassed only by the Bible. You will be examining the themes, characters, conflicts, and symbols in this book. It may not be your first time reading this novel, or you may have seen the movie. Your key assignment in this course is to explore what makes the book great literature, and the difference between the themes portrayed in the book and in the movie. Each week, you will write on an aspect of this inquiry as you proceed through reading the novel. One aspect of great literature is that it can be read over and over again, and each time there are more layers or dimensions revealed, especially as one reads it at different points on the life cycle. This is a novel of childhood, told through the first-person perspective of a 6-year-old girl, Scout Finch. For many people, it evokes the ways they used to see things and reveals how they see things differently as they grow up. This week, your assignment is to discuss your reactions to the novel, focusing on the town, the characters, and the conflicts introduced in the first 11 chapters of the book. Include reflections on the following questions: Time and place: Describe the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, the setting for the novel, and how it presents life in a small Southern town during the Great Depression. What themes are being introduced? List as many as you can discover thus far in the book. Can you anticipate how they will play out? List the main characters (Atticus, Scout, Jem, Calpurnia, and Dill). What do you learn about them in the first part of the book? Atticus Finch is the moral center of the book. How is this communicated? What conflicts are being introduced? Comment on the narrator?s voice, which is in the first-person perspective of a little girl. Does she actually write/sound like a little girl, or has the author used a memoir technique by including memories and viewpoints as she understood them looking back? What memories of your own childhood come to mind as you read about Scout?s adventures and experiences? How has childhood changed since the Great Depression? One way to answer this question is by interviewing one person in your life who lived through the Depression, which lasted from 1929 to the beginning of the Second World War (early 1940s).
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