To kill a mockingbird revision summary

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  • Created on: 25-04-10 21:09
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To Kill a Mockingbird:
The social and historical context of the novel:
American slavery
Black people were originally brought from Africa to America during the 17th, 18th and 19th
centuries. They were forcibly transported across the Atlantic in slave ships (in which many
died) and sold as slaves to work on sugar and cotton plantations in the Caribbean and the
southern states of North America. They had no rights and were seen by their white owners
as little more than animals or machines.
Even after the abolition of slavery in 1865, the blacks were still almost powerless. The
whites had too much to lose to allow blacks any rights. Nothing was equal: blacks had the
worst of everything while whites had the best.
Such was the hatred of blacks by the whites especially during the Great Depression of the
1930s, when money was tight for everyone that it was common for blacks to be lynched
or hung by a mob well into the 20th century so there was good reason for Atticus to sit
outside the jail to protect Tom Robinson before his trial.
Segregation and injustice
In the 1930s, although 50% of the population of Southern towns were black, they had no
vote and could not marry whites. The policy of segregation meant that blacks had to have
their own schools, their own churches, their own football teams, even their own cemeteries.
In the novel, Scout and Jem get into trouble with Aunt Alexandra for attending the blacks'
church. The blacks file into the courthouse after the whites and have to sit up in the balcony,
away from the whites.
Ku Klux Klan
Some whites formed vigilante
groups to intimidate and
even murder blacks and
right up until the 1950s it
was common for black
men to be accused of assaulting white women on the basis of little or no evidence. Harper
Lee may have based her novel in part on a case in Scottsboro, Alabama.

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The Scottsboro case
In 1931 when Harper Lee was 5, nine young black men were accused of raping two white
women on a train.
After a series of bitter trials, four of the men were sentenced to long prison sentences even
though prominent lawyers argued that the accusations were false.
It was later discovered that the women were lying.…read more

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The fire at Miss Maudie's house
That autumn, Scout and Jem find more presents in the knothole, including a watch, a spelling
medal and two figures of the children carved from soap. They realise the gifts must be from
Boo. Just when they are about to deliver a note of thanks, Nathan cements the hole up.
One very cold night there is a fire at their neighbour's, Miss Maudie. As Jem and Scout
stand shivering outside, someone puts a blanket over Scout.…read more

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Reading to Mrs Dubose
When old Mrs Dubose also insults the children because of Atticus' involvement in Tom
Robinson's case, Jem is so furious that he beheads every camellia in her yard. As a
punishment, Jem has to read to her every night for a month. When she dies, Atticus explains
to the children that she was a morphine addict who was trying to break the habit and
succeeded just before her death ' rather than hate her they should admire her courage.…read more

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Ewell, Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson, that Mr Ewell and Mayella are lying. Far from
being raped by Tom Robinson, Mayella had actually led him on and when her father
discovered her he had beaten her.
Taking a break from the trial, Dill and Scout talk with Mr Raymond outside the courthouse.…read more

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Back at school, Scout learns about Hitler's treatment of the Jews and is amazed that no one
in Maycomb seems able to connect that to the racism in the town.
Mr Ewell tries to break into Judge Taylor's house and menaces Tom Robinson's widow.
They are both attacked on
Halloween night
Jem and Scout attend a
Halloween pageant at school
its subject is the history of
Maycomb county and Scout
is dressed as a shoulder of ham.…read more

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While Jem is still unconscious after the attack, Scout tells her story. It dawns on her slowly
that the person who rescued them and who has stood shyly in the corner of the room
throughout her explanation is Boo Radley.
Unusually for him, Atticus takes a while to realise exactly what had happened during the
attack: he initially believed that Jem had stabbed Mr Ewell (and would therefore have to
face the consequences), but Heck Tate knows it was Boo who killed him.…read more

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She is very intelligent - she could read and write before she
started school. She hates school because she is bored and feels
stifled, and tries to persuade Atticus not to make her go.
She is a tomboy - she is insulted when Jem says to her "I declare
to the Lord you're getting' more like a girl every day!" She tries to
resist her aunt's attempts to make her a lady and wear dresses.
She is not afraid to fight people who insult Atticus.…read more


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