NEA Big Read
To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they’re quite different from people who must write.

  1. What are the different views of reading portrayed by Scout, Jem, and Atticus? How is reading linked to morality for each of these characters? Which view does the author advocate?
  2. Lee writes of the Ewell property that “against the fence, in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson” (Chapter 17). What do the flowers tell us about their keeper, Mayella Ewell? Are the geraniums a symbol? If so, why, and if not, why not?
  3. A true gift is, in one sense, an unexpected blessing bestowed by a person—or even, perhaps, by fate. Some of them may be objects, while some may be things that cannot be seen but are no less important. In Chapter 4, the children find a mysterious shiny package in the knothole of a live oak tree. What gifts are given in To Kill a Mockingbird? Why might they be important to the unfolding of the story?
  4. The Radley place undergoes a change in the course of the novel. At the beginning, we are told, “Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom” (Chapter 1). By the end, Scout fearlessly walks Boo up to his front porch. What change has taken place in Scout that allows her to walk with Boo?
  5. Maudie Atkinson says, “Atticus Finch was the deadest shot in Maycomb County in his time” near the end of Chapter 10. What lessons do the Finch children learn from the incident with the mad dog? Explain in detail, indicating how they change their understanding of their father. Is the mad dog a symbol of some Maycomb citizens?
  6. What does the visit to the Negro church teach Scout and Jem about black people in Maycomb? How is their culture different from the culture of white people the children know? How are the two connected?
  7. At the novel’s end, Scout says of Boo Radley, “…neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad” (Chapter 31). Is Scout right, that they gave nothing in return? Does this comment come from the adult-Scout narrator or the child-Scout narrator?
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