‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ – Cont’d
GOOD DAY. How far have you got in reading To Kill a Mockingbird, or have you finished? I know that soon after you started, you would have found out that the novel is set in Alabama, one of the Southern states of the USA. If I say to you that having made that discovery I am expecting racial issues to surface, what reason can you think of for my position? Yes ... it was once a slave state; a state where Negroes were abused physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, economically – all because of race and colour. The writer, Harper Lee, was herself a Southerner who died only last year on February 19. This novel, which won her many honours, includes several similarities to her own life and makes it clear that living in the South did not make her racist.
Our story is told by a child and this is significant, for we will get her point of view. Let me point out, however, that our narrator, Jean Louise Finch, more popularly known as Scout, is a very smart little girl. She reads and reads well – even though when we meet her, she has not yet started school. What makes her role particularly interesting is her innocent reporting on people and events, as well as on her brother, and her friends and associates.
In chapter one we meet Scout, her brother Jem (Jeremy Atticus Finch) and their father Atticus Finch, a lawyer. We are also introduced to their cook, Calpurnia, and Dill, Charles Baker Harris, another child. Scout gives us a brief family history and thereby we learn of her closeness to her brother and her father, but what about her relationship with Calpurnia? This is a question that you may ask. Be careful not to jump to conclusions. Scout refers to her by her christian name, but she also calls her father by his given name, Atticus. Please notice that she makes no reference to Calpurnia’s colour or that she is a Negro, for these things do not seem to have any relevance to Scout. It is worthy of note and it says much about Atticus and the way he is bringing up his children, with Calpurnia’s help, of course. Indeed, it is an unusual situation for she can, and does, discipline the white children of her employer.
Next, please pay special attention to the way the children speak, their choice of words and Scout’s ability to describe what she sees and hears. Below are some actions that I wish you to undertake. 1. Read up on the Battle of Hastings. 2. See if you can find out why the Methodists left England for America.
3. Delve into the conflict (shortened version) between the North and the South in America and discover what is important about the story being set in a former slave state. 4. Read about Andrew Jackson. 5. Consider the effect that the use of the flashback technique in the first paragraph of chapter one has on you.
6. What evidence can you find of Scout’s ‘openness’, honesty and innocence in this chapter?
I suggest that you divide the work among members of your study group and then get together to share oral reports and hold discussions on the findings. Getting information will pose no problem! Just use the Internet.
Before we continue, please take a while to think about the effects of the story being told by a child. Do you think that this will make a difference and, if so, how? Y-e-s, we will get a child’s point of view, hear about things that interest a child, ideas will/may be simply expressed, and we will get an innocent view of events and characters. Alright! Do not forget to write down your ideas, analyses and discoveries about characters as we proceed.
By the way, you do have your notebook in which you record what is discussed in your literature classes with your teacher at school, don’t you? You should also clip out and keep these lessons together. In addition, I am asking you to:
a) Write down the names of each character on a different page of a notebook, for example, page one – Scout, page two – Jem, and so on.
b) Under each name, record relevant information such as, in the case of Scout: name, age, role, characteristics and the pages of the book on which such information exists, as well as the page(s) on which she says or does something you especially wish to remember.
Have you noticed how much time is spent on the Radleys, especially Boo, in our first chapter? We can see from this that it is not only Dill who finds them fascinating. We can, therefore, expect to hear much more about them. I hope that you have been enjoying the humour in this chapter. Surely you found the meeting between Scout, Jem and Dill entertaining, and as for their efforts to get Jem to enter the Radley yard!
Mechanical engineering students arranging items they made for display.