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Boek: To Kill A Mockingbird
Schrijver: Harper Lee
Jaartal eerste druk: 1960
Uitgeverij: Little, Brown and Company
Scout Finch lives in a small town called Maycomb, together with her older brother Jem, her dad Atticus and their cook. Atticus works as a lawyer. Their mom passed away when Scout was born. The story begins with Scout remembering that Jem’s arm was broken in a weird spot around his elbow.
When Scout and Jem are playing around, they run into Dill, who was visiting their neighbour, Miss Rachel. Dill spends all of his summers in Maycomb County. For the rest of the summer, the three play together. They always stay around the house, so Calpurnia can easily call them, if necessary. Close to their home is a deserted house, and it seems like no one is living there. The children found out that the house does have a resident: Boo Radley, though he never comes outside. The children are fascinated by him. Every summer, they make a play to unmask their neighbour. Usually, Boo is some kind of monster. They continue doing this until Atticus tells them to stop.
Atticus raises Jem and Scout by himself. Their mom died when Scout was born. Atticus works as a lawyer and is gone for work a lot, leaving Calpurnia to raise Scout and Jem. He does try to be an example for his children, by always trying to see things from other people’s perspectives. During the story, Atticus represents Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson is a black man living in a suburb of Maycomb, together with other black people.
Tom Robinson is charged with the rape of a white girl, Mayella Ewell, who also lives outside of Maycomb. Tom Robinson often walked by Mayella’s place when he returned from work. There are some witnesses in the case who testify that Tom Robinson raped and abused the girl. One of these witnesses is Mayella’s dad: Bob Ewell. Ewell is described as a horrible man.
Atticus tries to prove that Tom is innocent, even though he knows that it is probably a lost cause. He shows that the abuser must have been using his right hand. Tom cannot use his right hand due to an accident. Atticus concludes that the witnesses must be lying, but the jury still finds Tom guilty. Furthermore, Bob Ewell hates that Atticus hurt his reputation during the trial. He wants to take revenge on Atticus.
The trial has some effects on the town as well. During and after the trial, Atticus is called a “nigger lover” by the white people in Maycomb. Scout and Jem want to stand up for their dad, but he told them to always be nice to everyone. In the meantime, Tom is shot dead when he tries to escape prison.
Later on, after a Halloween-event in the village, Jem and Scout walk home together. They walk through the park, as usual. At some point, Jem believes that the two are being followed. The following events happen very quickly and Scout is not entirely sure what happened. She hears Jem screaming and then they are suddenly home.
It turns out that Boo Radley saved the two from Bob Ewell. Bob Ewell wanted to hurt the children as revenge for Atticus ruining his life. He was carrying a knife. After running into Boo Radley, Bob tries to run away, but stumbles and falls into his own knife. This killed him. When Jem and Scout ran away, Jem fell and broke his arm because of Ewell. This is also the first time that Scout sees Boo Radley and she thinks that he’s a good person.
Scout Finch is a young girl living together with her dad, brother and their cook. She enjoys playing outside and does not want to be seen as a typical girl. She has a pretty naive idea of what the world is like, believing that everyone is a good person. During the story, this faith is tested and she sees that the world might be more complex than she initially believed.
Atticus Finch is Scout’s father. He works as a lawyer and tries to fight for justice. He strongly believes that everyone is equal. He does not want to disrespect anyone, even if he disagrees with them.
Jem Finch is Scout’s older brother. He is four years older than Scout and is affected more strongly by Tom Robinson’s trial and death. At the beginning of the book, he and Scout play together all the time. Throughout the book, Jem gradually separates himself from the games they are playing.
Arthur “Boo” Radley is a neighbour who never goes outside. Scout and Jem are intrigued by him and they believe that he is some sort of evil person. Later on, they find out that he is actually a good guy. During his youth, his father treated him poorly. Because of this, his innocence faded.
Dill Harris is a friend of Jem’s and Scout’s who always spends his summers in Maycomb. He is young and innocent and he loves playing with Jem and Scout.
Bob Ewell lives in the poorer side of the county. He accuses Tom Robinson of rape, even though he knows that Tom is not guilty.
The most important theme in To Kill A Mockingbird is good and evil. Atticus tries to see everyone as equal and fights for fairness to those who need it. He knows that all people have good and bad qualities and he tries to bring out the good in himself and his environment. People like Bob Ewell, on the other hand, show that there are people who will always believe that others are evil, just because of the way they look.
The book also deals with the development of people when they find out that not everyone is as good as they initially thought. Throughout the book, Jem loses his faith in humanity. Boo Radley’s innocence was also heavily damaged because of his youth. Scout, on the other hand, keeps believing in the goodness of people, even though she now encountered injustice.
There are different deaths in the book. Scout and Jem’s mom died when Scout was born. Furthermore, Tom Robinson is killed when escaping prison and Bob Ewell falls into his own knife at the end of the story.
Furthermore, the mockingbird returns at multiple points in the story. The mockingbird represents innocence. At some point in the book, Atticus says: “remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. All the mockingbird does is sing and it does not harm anybody. Tom Robinson and Boo Radley can be compared to mockingbirds. They are both innocent and it is unjust to prosecute them.
To Kill A Mockingbird means to kill something that is innocent. In the book, Tom Robinson is killed even though he did not do anything wrong. At the same time, Boo Radley is believed to be an evil and mysterious person, just because he does not come outside. Both characters are “mockingbirds” that should not be killed.
The title can also be used to explain the development of Jem and Scout throughout the book. Because of the events in the story, both Jem and Scout lose their innocence. They are forced to replace their naive ideas about the world into something more complicated.
The story is told from the perspective of Scout. The book starts with grown-up Scout who reminisces about the story and wants to tell what happened. The book is written in the first person perspective. Scout is both the narrator and the protagonist of the story. Scout is very young in the book – six years old in the beginning and eight at the end – and this is visible because she misinterprets some events. For example, she does not know yet how babies are made.
The book is set from 1933-1935 in the United States. This era is part of the Jim Crow era and the Great Depression. The Great Depression was an economic crisis during the 1930s which affected many countries, but mostly the US. While Scout’s family is better off compared to most people living in the county, they are still poor. The Jim Crow era started after slavery was prohibited, but there were still laws discriminating black people. The story that Scout tells takes about two years, starting when she is six years old and ending when she is about eight.
At the beginning of the book, Scout uses sophisticated language that shows that she is an adult. When the story starts, Scout uses language that is much simpler. She often uses words and sentences that she must have picked up from adults in her environment. She also often misinterprets what adults mean.
The book takes some time to get into, since it uses some old language and American slang. The perspective is very interesting, especially in the parts where Scout misinterprets what is happening around her. The story talks about racism from a child’s perspective, which shows what it was like to grow up in the South of the United States around that time. I think that the book is inspiring and that it is important to read books that give us an idea about what it is like to live in a very different time.
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