Essay: Narrative Criticism to Kill a Mockingbird Movie Transcript

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¶ … setting of this classic film is the deep South during the Great Depression. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl, named Scout, played in the movie by Mary Badham, whose father is a prominent lawyer in the small, fictitious Alabama town of Maycomb. The Depression has hit Maycomb hard but Scout's family, which consists of herself, her brother, Jem, played by Phillip Alford, and her father, Atticus, have been largely unaffected. The role of Atticus is played by Gregory Peck.

The plot of the movie centers on the fate of a local black man who is represented by Scout's father. The young black man is charged with the rape of young white woman and, despite the sterling defense offered by Atticus, is ultimately convicted. In a twist to the plot, the convicted black man, under suspicious circumstances, escapes from jail and is subsequently killed by his pursuers.

After the furor of the trial has died down Bob Ewell, father of the alleged victim, begins threatening Atticus for embarrassing him in court, resolves to get even with him. Atticus gives little concern to such threats but the Ewell proofs true to his word and attacks the Finch children on Halloween night with a knife. The assault results in injuries to Jem and Scout but Boo comes to their rescue and kills Ewell.

The story also has a subplot wherein Scout and her brother, joined by a friend named Dill, played by John Megna, develop a fascination with a local resident, Boo Radley. Radley, played by a young Robert Duvall, lives with his brother but lives a mysterious life that provides fodder for the three young children to imagine all sorts of strange possibilities about Boo's life. To amuse themselves the three children begin a relentless campaign to get Boom, who is reclusive, to come out of his house. Despite warnings from Scout's father urging the children to leave Boo alone, the three youngsters persist in their wonderings about Boo and, through a strange set of circumstances, the children actually develop a relationship with Boo even though they never actually have any contact with him until Boo actually acts to save Scout's life.

Scout and her family enjoy an exalted position in their community. As the daughter of one of the town's most successful attorney's Scout and her brother have few material wants and this does not change during the course of the story but her family is placed under significant scrutiny by the other white citizens of the town resulting from her father's representing Tom Robinson. Both children were teased and abused at school and around town as the other citizens expressed their dissatisfaction over the fact that Atticus had decided to take on the representation of Robinson. The entire town had decided that Robinson, played by Brock Peters, was guilty and that no trial was necessary.

The movie closes with Scout reflecting on what has occurred. She has recovered completely from the injuries that she received the night Boo saved her and her father has continued to run his law practice just like he always. Normalcy has returned. Scout, however, has matured significantly after being exposed to the evils of prejudice, both racial and personal.

The major theme of the movie is its examination of whether or not human nature is essentially good or evil. In this regard, the focus is on the transformation of the two young children, the siblings, Jem and Scout, from two innocent children who view the world as innocents and how, because of a series of events in their young lives, begin to see the world much differently. During the course of one summer both children are exposed to several situations where they are exposed to how evil man can be toward each other and, in the process, both of them lose a portion of their innocence.

Scout and her brother, Jem, are transformed at the expense of two of the stories more important characters, Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Both Boo and Tom are revealed through the telling of the story as good men. Neither man has ever done anything to distinguish themselves as having any aspect of evil in their hearts and their ability to handle the effects of evil is brought into focus as the events of the story unfold. Both men are eventually destroyed by the factors of hatred, prejudice, and ignorance that pervade Maycomb, Alabama.

The model of moral correctness throughout the entire story is the figure of Atticus Finch. In a town where hate and prejudice run rampant, Atticus is depicted as being above the fray and possessing unquestioned dignity and honor. Atticus possesses the wisdom to understand that every man has both good and evil in his character and that the battle in life is to make sure that the good features outweigh the bad. Atticus is careful to maintain balance in his views toward the actions of others and attempts to pass this feature onto his two children. Remarkably, Atticus is able to treat every character in the movie with dignity and respect regardless of what they have done.

Although the major story lines address the events that involve Boo Radley and Tom Robinson, the actual theme of the book is the moral education of the story's narrator, Scout. Scout and her brother are faced to witness events that challenge their view of the world. Both children are exposed to a variety of situations where they face adults whose behavior is less than exemplary and runs contrary to the lessons espoused to them by their father. Atticus, however, remains a strong moral compass and works diligently to be an example for his children.

The Depression and its effects are demonstrated throughout the story as is the framework of a segregated South. The movie lays out for the viewer how society in the deep South was organized in days surrounding the Depression and, in doing so, it also reveals the capriciousness of such organization. Atticus Finch and his children are members of the white elite but they do not possess the same racist and elitist attitudes that pervade such society. Beneath the white elite are the towns people who comprise the majority of Maycomb. In the course of the movie, this group fails to distinguish itself in any significant way but as most of the jury that convicted Tom Robinson are members of this group their general attitude is reflected by the fact that they convict Robinson despite overwhelming evidence that he was innocent. The two groups that receive the most scrutiny in the movie are the country farmers like the Cunninghams and the white trash characterized by the Ewalls who bring the false charges against Tom Robinson. The prejudices and harshness of both groups are displayed in abundance as the story unfolds. The final group in the movie is the town's black citizens. As one would expect, these individuals live on the periphery of society and offer the other citizens a perfect scapegoat for nearly everything bad that occurs. The fact that false charges could be brought against one of their number by someone as unreliable as Mayella Violet Ewell is a testament to the low station that Blacks held in Depression era Maycomb. The effectiveness of the movie is its capacity to depict these arbitrary social divisions as being both irrational and destructive to overall fabric of society. It is through the narrator, young and impressionable Scout, and her personal reflections and thoughts that the perplexities of Southern society are revealed.

The timeliness of the release of to Kill a Mockingbird added to its impact as both a film and a commentary on the social condition that the movie addresses. Released in 1962, American society was embroiled a civil rights debate that was threatening to divide its basic framework. Riots were breaking out in several different areas of the South and had spilled over to the Northern cities as well. The relationships between the races in America were at a breaking point and Mockingbird quickly became a voice for those who opposed the injustice that was occurring throughout the United States in the area of civil rights.

The film provided powerful insights into how life actually was in America's South and contributed to how Americans began viewing the inherent problems of such life. The most glaring statement offered by the movie is the conduct of the trial. The director of the film takes a real risk by highlighting how ineffective the jury system operated in the South and how a black man could be convicted despite strong evidence to the contrary. The film also demonstrates that the social norms in the South dictated that white woman's word was truth especially when balanced against the word of a black man and that justice in the South was not based on the actual facts but by a person's race. In light of the circumstances present in the country at the time of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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