To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic of not only American but also world literature. The novel can be considered autobiographical, as it is based on the memoirs of Harper Lee. The book was first published in 1960, and just a year later, the author won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1962, the novel was filmed. In 1963 – translated into Russian and published in the journal “Foreign Literature”. The first edition of the book was published in the Soviet Union in 1964.
Do you have more questions than answers after reading the book? Let me help you unravel the explicit and hidden meaning of To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as talk about the issues, history of writing and more.
What is “To Kill a Mockingbird” about?
The action takes place in the small American town of Maycomb in the south of the country during the Great Depression. The story in the work is conducted on behalf of the little girl Jean Louise Finch (Eye). The children’s mother died when the girl was two years old and her brother Jim was six. The upbringing was done by father Atticus, who works as a lawyer, and a black servant Calpurnia.
The children and their friend Dill became interested in the Redley family living in the neighborhood, about which there were various rumors, the inhabitants of the town said that their son had committed a crime in his youth. Among themselves, they called the guy the Scarecrow, ran to the Redley house to see this him.
In the fall, when Louise started first grade, she found packets of chewing gum in the hollow of an old oak tree. In the same place, someone repeatedly left small gifts for her and her brother.
The next summer, when their friend Dill came back to town, the boys continued to keep an eye on the Redley house. Once they were frightened by the owner with a gun, who mistook them for thieves. Jim, running away, tore his pants and threw them away. After some time, mended and neatly folded pants were found. And in the fall, again in the hollow, someone began to leave gifts.
At this time, Atticus embarked on a new business. He was supposed to defend a black guy, Tom Robinson, who was accused of raping a white girl. Both the lawyer and his children were sure of the innocence of the accused. But, the inhabitants of the city did not like their good attitude towards the “Black Sea”.
During the trial, defending Tom Robinson, Atticus Finch provided indisputable evidence confirming the innocence of a black guy. In addition, he named the criminal’s name – Bob Ewell. It was the father of the murdered girl. When he saw that his daughter was giving attention to a black guy, he beat her, blaming Tom for everything. After some hesitation, the jury gave Tom a death sentence. Atticus planned to appeal, but Tom died while trying to escape.
After some time, Bob Ewell attacked the brother and sister. The girl remained unharmed thanks to the carnival costume, while Jim had a broken arm. The guys were saved by the Scarecrow, who killed the criminal, and carried the unconscious Jim to his home. The scarecrow turned out to be mentally ill, but not dangerous. The guy liked children, he wanted to make friends with them and put small gifts for them in the hollow of an oak tree.
To keep the Scarecrow from getting into trouble, Sheriff Maycomb had Euel’s death declared a suicide.
Meaning of “To Kill a Mockingbird”
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee described the negative aspects of American society in the 1930s. Despite the fact that slavery was no longer officially in America at this time, there were serious problems of segregation. There was intolerance towards people with dark skin color, in society the attitude towards them remained as second-class people.
The main characters of the book lawyer Atticus and his children are shown as decent people who are able to go against public opinion, trying to change the world around them for the better.
The main point is about racial inequality and exposing racism. The second meaning is that within any crowd there will always be someone who will act according to his conscience and oppose everyone.
Analysis of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”
It can be said that the book is written about children, but it is not for them. The author raised complex ethical issues using a special technique: a look at the adult world through the eyes of a child. The girl grows up, realizing that the lawyer is not omnipotent, and the lie is sometimes stronger than the truth. And at the same time, Glazastik understands that she and her brother also turned out to be victims of prejudice when they took Arthur Redley for a dangerous person.
To a greater extent, this novel is designed for a teenage audience. The book calls to instill in the younger generation a sense of mutual assistance and justice, a humane and humane attitude towards each other.
History of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”
The novel To Kill a Mockingbird is based on the childhood memories of the writer. Nell Harper Lee was born and lived in the southern US state. Her father, Amas Lee, was a lawyer for some time. Nell had a brother Edwin and childhood friend Truman Capote, who became a writer in the future. A little later, Capote confirmed that the Scarecrow also had a prototype. A similar person lived on their street and also planted gifts for children.
Li began writing articles while studying at the University of Alabama. And when in 1948 her childhood friend Truman published his first novel, which became a bestseller, the girl decided to take up writing. Dropped out of university and moved to New York.
At first, several short stories were written, but one literary agent advised turning these stories into a novel and writing a book about people whom the girl knows well. Unfortunately, the work took Nell a lot of time, and there was almost no time left to write a novel. Friends saved the situation by giving money for Christmas, which was enough for Lee not to work for a year, but only to read a book.
The manuscript was sent to several publishing houses, but only one undertook to publish the novel with the condition of revision. A contract was signed and a fee was paid.
The meaning of the title of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”
The title of the novel is symbolic, it describes its content. In one conversation, Atticus explains to his son that killing a small bird is considered a sin. The mockingbird is the most harmless bird, it does no harm to anyone, does not peck berries in the garden, does not nest in barns. She only sings songs for everyone’s joy.
The novel draws a parallel between the mockingbird and some of the characters. It is a sin to kill this bird, but it is also impossible to blame, judge a person for those actions that he did not commit. Black Tom and the mentally ill Scarecrow are innocent mockingbirds who have experienced the imperfection of society.
The murdered mockingbird serves as a symbol of the disenfranchised, needlessly affected by the cruelty of others.
Problems of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”
The novel To Kill a Mockingbird deals with moral and social issues. America in the 30s was a country where the black population, in fact, did not have civil rights. And against the backdrop of such events, Atticus Finch nevertheless decided to defend the black man, knowing that the case would be lost.
Harper Lee raises several topical issues in the novel:
- parenting and the relationship between parents and children;
- the problem of the society in which children grow up;
- social inequality and discrimination;
- tolerance and humanity;
- relationship between man and society;
- confrontation between good and evil;
- the relationship of children to others;
- optimism, faith in the best.
What does the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” teach?
To Kill a Mockingbird contains many instructive moments.
- For example, when the townspeople condemn the protagonist for defending a black man, Atticus Finch explains to the children that people are entitled to their opinion. But, the only thing that is not consistent with the opinion of society is the conscience of a person. The basis of the message is to live according to conscience and teach this to your children.
- When the sheriff ruled Euel’s death as a suicide and did not hand over Arthur Radley, he explained that he could not be “shy and modest to pull out for everyone to see.” It is a sin. And Glazastik draws a parallel that offending the Scarecrow is how to kill a mockingbird. The girl understands that it is impossible to offend the weak, it is necessary to stand up for him.
- At another moment, Glazastik remembered how her father said that you recognize a person only when you “get into his skin and walk around in it.” Another instructive moment. You can not condemn a person for his actions, because you were not in his place.
- Throughout the novel, the lawyer Atticus is an example for Louise and Jim. He patiently and intelligibly explains every situation they do not understand. He is always patient and calm. Here the father can be a model for those involved in raising children.
- The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” teaches proper education, humanity and tolerance, kindness and mercy.
Explanation of the ending of To Kill a Mockingbird
At the very end of the novel, the father puts his daughter to bed and explains that almost all people are good when you understand them. The girl falls asleep and is sure that when her brother wakes up, his father will also sit next to him.
The meaning of the end of the book lies in optimism, in faith and hope in the best qualities of a person.
The novel by Harper Lee is still relevant today. Prejudice and cruelty have not gone away, people are also trying to condemn those who are on the side of justice. And only a child, with his unspoiled and naive outlook on life, can with sincerity resist the malice and cruelty of the adult world.
I hope I have helped you find the meaning of To Kill a Mockingbird and also make sense of its ending. If you have a different vision of the book – write your own version in the comments.