To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice.
XX Century, USA of 1930s
- Robert Mulligan’s film won the Academy Award in the 1960s. It is based on the novel of the same name by American writer Harpel Lee.
- The events depicted in the book and the film take place during the Great Depression. This was the global economic crisis that began in America in 1929 and lasted for 10 years.
- In 1936, several black men were arrested in Alabama, USA, on charges of raping a white girl, despite the lack of evidence, and insufficient facts, “offenders” were sentenced to many years in prison. Only one of them – the death penalty! This event become a basis of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” by the American writer Harper Lee. The novel was published on July 11, 1960. The news and events reflected in it echo the southern childhood memories of the author on family, friends and neighbors. Alabama is the home state of Harper Lee, she was a 10-year-old girl at the time of this incident.
- Director Robert Mulligan wanted to make the film in the hometown of Harper Lee, Alabama. Filming took place in the 1960s, and obviously the city’s appearance changed dramatically after the 1930s. That’s why a special pavilion was built in Hollywood, at Universal Studios, to replicate Alabama of 1930s.
- Harper Lee’s book begins with the words of English writer and essayist Charles Lamb: “Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.”. What do you think this words mean? And what has that got to do with the film?
- What does the title of the movie mean? Why shouldn’t we kill mockingbird?
- Atticus Finch is a lawyer, for him human dignity is the highest value, how does the director introduce him us to at the beginning of the film, when and how does the character reveal his real face?
- The events in the film are seen from the perspective of 6-year-old girl Jean Louise Finch, daughter of local lawyer Atticus Finch. What is the truth and justice seen through the eyes of children?
- The judges seem to know the verdict from the beginning, but Atticus Finch is desperately trying to save “offender”, what methods does he use for this, what are his “rules of the game”?
- Why does society oppose the protagonist, Atticus Finch?
- If the man accused of violence was white, how would the story evolve, what would be the final verdict?
- Why is “To Kill a Mockingbird” relevant today, how are the issues reflected in the film (book) manifested in modern society?
- The hatred of black people and the struggle waged by Atticus Finch – These two events are presented in the film from the perspective of young people. They see how their parent fights for high moral principles, agree with and support him. Describe the relationship between Atticus and his children.
- One of the most enigmatic characters in the film, Boo Radley, is a victim of stereotypes. His constant isolation from people creates a kind of “enemy icon”! What does this particular passage in the film indicate? How often do people different from us become excluded from society (how and why does the so-called stigma arise)?
- Only then will you understand a person if you look at the world from his perspective – Atticus Finch says to his daughter. In relation to which characters is all this revealed in the film?
- In one of the part of the book / movie, Atticus says, ““I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens; they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”- What is your interpretation of this quote? How far is 1930s America from these values?
- The film’s emotional culmination is a court ruling: despite Atticus Finch’s selfless attempt, the full jury finds Tom Robinson guilty. To generalize, this verdict accurately reflects the society of the 1930s (after all, the court was an integral part of this society). Spectators, the people gathered in the courtroom waiting for the verdict, which is unfair and cruel, if you were the director of the film, would you change the ending?
Write about this film
The film depicts the events in America in the 1930s, the author describes all this from the perspective of the daughter of Atticus Finch, who in turn is a prototype of Harper Lee. Racism takes on a brutal form during America’s dry law and the Great Depression. Segregation between white and black people goes to extremes! When writing about the film, focus on the epoch-making contexts, the inequalities between “whites and blacks” that prevail in American society. Try to analyze the character of lawyer Atticus Finch, if not his profession, how much he would be able to tell the truth to the public? Atticus openly opposes universally accepted standards and norms, both legal and ethical and human. In addition, pay special attention to his children, the protagonists of the film, whose father’s path and moral-ethical principles open another door to the existing reality. When writing, try to find examples from literature and film history in the context of human rights and racism.
For Individual work
A novel by Harper Lee (1926-2016) begins with the words of English writer and essayist Charles Lamb: “Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.” In terms of law, justice and human rights, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a kind of unanimous artistic guide, recognized as the most humane American work of the 1930s. It has been translated on many languages and still does not lose its popularity. The author was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this book. The protagonist of the film is Jean Louise, the author’s alter ego. Harper Lee’s father, like Atticus Finch, was a local lawyer in the state. The stories described in the book are an echo of her childhood. In American literature, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe introduces us to the gravity of black slavery. This film/book does not explicitly address the issue of slavery, but the oppression of blacks is a mainstay. In addition to Beecher Stowe, we recommend you read Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”, which is an ideological sequel to Mockingbird.
Curriculum links: History, Civic Education.
Human rights, specifically the rights of black people, is one of the most important and painful episodes in American history. History remembers many personalities (Martin Luther King, Jr.) who fought for the rights of blacks, or because of whom (Rosa Parks) started significant changes! When working in a group, find information about black people who have been trying to defend their rights, in addition to organizations and radical groups that have deliberately fought blacks in different eras in the United States (Ku Klux Klan). What brutal methods were used?… What is the current situation in America? How has the manifestation of racism and the struggle for human rights developed in the United States and around the world since the 1900s?
After discussion and group work, students can visualize the narrative material. Create a wall newspaper or presentation individually or in groups about American History – Black People Fighting for Rights (Martin Luther King), try to present documentary-chronic material: speeches, demonstrations, failure / victory, challenges today.
As a result of watching the film, discussing and reviewing it, in which it is necessary to use epoch-making contexts and the above-mentioned recommendations, the student will learn more about 1930s America and racism.