To Kill A Mockingbird

In 1960 American author Harper Lee. J. B. Lippincott published To Kill a Mockingbird, it was an instant success. Just a year later Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for writing it. The novel is still one of the most influential books on race in America, has sold more than 40 million copies.

In the United States, it is still widely read in high schools and middle schools.

Plot Summary of To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is primarily a novel about growing up under extraordinary circumstances in the 1930s in the Southern United States. The story covers a span of three years, during which the main characters undergo significant changes. Scout Finch lives with her brother Jem and their father Atticus in the fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama. Maycomb is a small, close-knit town, and every family has its social station depending on where they live, who their parents are, and how long their ancestors have lived in Maycomb.

Scout and Jem spend much of their time creating and acting out fantasies. One year, a boy named Dill comes to spend the summer with his aunt, the Finches’ neighbor Miss Rachel. The three children become friends, and, pushed by Dill’s wild imagination, soon become obsessed with a nearby house called Radley Place. A man named Nathan Radley owns the house, but it is his reclusive brother, Arthur Radley (whom the children call Boo) who interests and terrifies them. He is supposedly locked up in the house and once stabbed his father, Mr. Radley, with scissors. Local children believe that he’s impossibly tall, drools, and eats neighborhood cats and squirrels. On a dare, Jem runs up and touches the Radley house, and Scout is sure she sees someone watching them from inside behind a curtain.

Call to Action

Not quite midway through the story, Scout and Jem discover that their father is going to represent a black man named Tom Robinson much to the consternation of Maycomb’s racist white community. The man is accused of raping and beating a white woman. Suddenly, Scout and Jem have to tolerate a barrage of racial slurs and insults because of Atticus’ role in the trial. During this time, Scout has a very difficult time restraining from physically fighting with other children. A tendency that gets her in trouble with her Aunt Alexandra and Uncle Jack. Even Jem, the older and more levelheaded of the two, loses his temper a time or two.

After responding to a neighbor’s (Mrs. Dubose) verbal attack by destroying her plants, Jem is sentenced to read to her every day after school for one month. Ultimately, Scout and Jem learn a powerful lesson about bravery from this woman. As the trial draws nearer, Aunt Alexandra comes to live with them under the guise of providing a feminine influence for Scout.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Literary Devices in To Kill a Mockingbird

There are several Literary Devices in To Kill a Mockingbird including colorful figurative language (similes, metaphors, personification ). “Jem waved my words away as if fanning gnats.” is a simile and in Chapter 9, Boo makes a secret appearance when a neighbor’s house catches fire. Lee uses personification, along with other figurative language, to describe the fire. Scout relays, “The fire was well into the second floor and had eaten its way to the roof: window frames were black against a vivid orange center.”

Harper Lee uses hyperbole several times to describe Scout’s first day of school. At the start of lunch, Miss Caroline instructs students to pull out their lunches. ‘Molasses buckets appeared from nowhere, and the ceiling danced with metallic light. Clearly the molasses buckets were not pulled from thin air.

Lee selects such stylistic devices as symbolism, foreshadowing and irony to present her theme of inequality. She tells the story of a brave man who fights for those that do not have a voice during the Great Depression.

Foreshadowing in this quote: ”Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

It is ironic that the people who are looked down upon in their small town are often the ones with the greatest moral character. This is an example of dramatic irony. For example, Boo is considered to be a disgrace and a freak in Maycomb.


The mad dog symbolizes injustice and racism. (Remember in chapter 9 when Atticus said people go “stark raving mad” whenever there’s a court case involving a black person?) Scout will refer back to this incident later when she watches Atticus stand up for what’s right in the courtroom. It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

In this story of innocence destroyed by evil, the ‘mockingbird’ comes to represent the idea of innocence. Thus, to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence.” The longest quotation about the book’s title appears in Chapter 10, when Scout explains: “‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.


Among the Gothic elements in To Kill a Mockingbird are:

  • the unnatural snowfall
  • the fire that destroys Miss Maudie’s house
  • the children’s superstitions about Boo Radley
  • the mad dog that Atticus shoot
  • the ominous night of the Halloween party on which Bob Ewell attacks the children.

%d bloggers like this: