Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Term Paper

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¶ … Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee is the American writer, famous for her race relations novel to KILL a MOCKINGBIRD, which became a runaway success due to the timing of the novel which was published at the height of Civil rights movement and also because behind its apparent simplicity and down-to-earth style it touched the heart of people from all walks of life. . In to Kill a Mockingbird, a black man (Tom Robinson) is accused of raping a white woman. There are strong undercurrents of racism running deep in the novel as the plot revolves around a community living in a small southern town. In the book, the narrator is a small girl (Scout), and the story has many themes running through it, as it is mainly a coming of age.

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Descendent from Robert E. Lee, the Southern Civil War general, Alabama, Nelle Harper Lee was born April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, a small Alabama town. Lee's father was a lawyer in Monroeville, much like Atticus Finch in Maycomb County. Lee was educated in the public schools of Monroeville, and was a childhood friend of Truman Capote, author of in Cold Blood, the Glass Harp, and Breakfast at Tiffany's. After high school, she attended Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama from 1944 to 1945. Four years later, Lee went to the University of Alabama to study law. While there, Lee contributed to several campus publications. She left the university six months before completing her degree and struck out for New York and a literary career. In 1959, Lee accompanied Truman Capote to Holcombe, Kansas, as a research assistant for Capote's classic 'non-fiction' novel in Cold Blood (1966).

Term Paper on Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Is the Assignment

This work became her first and last novel, to Kill a Mockingbird (1960). It won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the Alabama Library Association Award and the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In 1962, she received the Bestsellers' paperback of the year award. Lee's novel remained on the bestseller list for over eighty weeks. To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into ten languages.

Edgar H. Shuster is quoted in World Literature Criticism as saying,

"The achievement of Harper Lee is not that she has written another novel about race prejudice, but rather that she has placed race prejudice in a perspective which allows us to see it as an aspect of a larger thing; as something that arises from phantom contacts, from fear and lack of knowledge or 'education' that one gains through learning what people are really like when you 'finally see them.'" (World Literature Criticism)

When it appeared in 1960 to Kill a Mockingbird was a first novel by an unknown author. The great majority of such books are read by a few thousand, or only a few hundred, persons, and then drop quickly out of sight. The book was a rare exception to the rule. It was widely read and received high praise at its publication, and it maintained a steady popularity into the 1980s.

Partly because its style is simple and needs little illumination, and partly because it is Harper Lee's only published novel, it has not received much attention from scholars and critics.

Richard Sullivan from Chicago Tribune Praised the book:

"The style is bright and straightforward; the unaffected young narrator uses adult language to render the matter she deals with, but the point-of-view is cunningly restricted to that of a perceptive, independent child, who doesn't always understand fully what's happening, but who conveys completely, by implication, the weight and burden of the story.

There is wit, grace and skill in the telling. From the narrator on, every person in the book is every moment alive in time and place." (Chicago Sunday Tribune)

There are also some very striking resemblances between Lee's and Scout's early lives:

Harper Lee grew up in 1930s in a rural southern Alabama town. Father, Amasa Lee was an attorney who served in state legislature in Alabama. Scout grows up in 1930s - in a rural southern Alabama town her Father - Atticus Finch is an attorney who served in state legislature in Alabama.

The author's Older brother and young neighbor (Truman Capote) were playmates and Similarly, Scout's Older brother and young neighbor (Dill) are playmates also

Harper Lee was an avid reader at a very young age. Scout also reads before she enters school; she reads Mobile Register newspaper in first grade.

Lee was Six years old when Scottsboro trials were meticulously covered in state and local newspapers, and Scout is the same age at time of the trial of Tom Robinson.

According to Claudia Durst Johnson, Tom Robinson's trial bears remarkable similarity to the "Scottsboro Trial," one of the most famous-or infamous-court cases in American history. Both the fictional and the historical cases take place in the 1930s, a time of confusion and change in America, and both take place in Alabama. In both, too, the defendants were African-American men, the accusers white women. In both cases, the charge was rape. In addition, other substantial similarities between the fictional and historical trials become evident.

Both the historical trial(s) and the fictional one reflect the prevailing attitudes of the time, and the novel explores the social and legal problems that arise because of those attitudes.

First, it is vital to understand the social and economic environment of the 1930s. The country was in what has been called the Great Depression. Millions of people had lost their jobs, their homes, their businesses, or their land, and everything that made up their way of life. In every American city of any size, long "bread lines" of the unemployed formed to receive basic foodstuffs for themselves and their families, their only way of survival.

The economic disintegration of the 1930s resulted in vicious rivalry for the very few jobs that became available. As a result, the ill will between black and white people (which had existed ever since the Civil War) deepened, as each group vied with the other for the few available jobs. One result was that occurrences of lynching -- primarily of African-Americans -- continued. It was in such a difficult social and economic conditions that the Scottsboro case (and Tom Robinson's case) unfolded.

The years of 1960 and 1961, when to Kill a Mockingbird was published, signaled a time of great change. The civil rights movement was in full swing and the country was experiencing social and economic structuring. Traditional thinking was being transformed into ideas and thoughts that had never been considered before, and old traditions were pitted against new ones. Looking into the Deep South, in a little town named Maycomb, tradition for most people meant prejudice, separation, and racism. Atticus Finch chooses to fight against this "old tradition" with traditions of his own. Because of his highly ethical character, Atticus is able to admirably defend Tom Robinson and promote a "new tradition" for himself and his children. Respect, dignity, and equality form the backbone of Atticus' belief system, a belief system containing qualities that are often overlooked in the traditional South. In the absence of outside support, Atticus fights his battle the only way he knows how -- with patience, perseverance, and honesty

The traditional Southern racism of Maycomb is looked at through the eyes of our young narrator, Scout Finch. Scout's innocent perspective compels her to ask questions about why whites treat blacks the way they do. These questions are crucial in Scout's search for her own identity. Scout must come to terms with the racism of her town and how it affects the people in her life. She must find her own position and what role she will play in the whole racial game. A number of people greatly influence Scout. The two major role models in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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