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“To Kill a Mockingbird” Novel by Harper Lee Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 25th, 2021


Like one who, on a lonely road,
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And, having once turned round, walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread?

(Quoted in Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner).

The primary stage in a research process, Lusk (2004) views, is the development of a cleared, precise and well-knitted proposal. The aim of the present literary research is to find out whether or not a literary work aims to describe the personality behind it and his biographical background as well as his command over portraying the social situation existing in his environment. In other words, it is the author of a creative piece whose personality, ideas, imagination, observation, perception, environment and social set up determine the level of creativity that reflects in his work. Hence, a writer’s deep observation, perception and depth of goodness in his own character can be measured by the words he delivers, the behavior he performs and the theme on which he attempts to write. In the same way, a great piece of literature aims to point out flaws of society and determines the future reforms being made on the basis of the theme presented in it. The same is the case with Harper Lee and her masterpiece under the title To Kill a Mockingbird, in which she has expressed her own deep vision based on the goodness existing in the materialist society facing unstable economic situation and changing demographic characteristics with the inclusion of different racial groups and communities.

Main body

“To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960) is one of the most celebrated and admired novels of twentieth century that won great applause not only in its native land from its local readers in the USA, but also from all corners of the world at large. The author, Harper Lee, has magnificently raised a stupendous voice against apartheid as well as prejudiced behavior on the basis of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and gender discrimination. Lee has very skillfully conveyed the theme how an individual, especially belonging to some minority group of society, is looked down upon and mentally tortured on the basis of his ethnicity on the one hand, and his low financial position on the other. Thus, Lee accomplished a noble mission of indicating the prevailing social evil that could jeopardize the unity of the nation on the one hand, and might slow down the participation of the members of a significant American community in nation building activities on the other. “To Kill a Mockingbird has been popular ever since its publication in 1960. Even before its release, four national mail-order book clubs had chosen it as their monthly selection. Within two years, it had won the Alabama Association Award, the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference on Christians and Jews, and, of course, the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.” (Melissa 2007: retrieved in Brooklyn Book Talk).

There is symbolism while depicting the concept of mockingbird. It is one of the main characteristics of the mockingbird includes its innocence and imitation of the songs of other birds in a loud voice. Tom Robinson, the representative of black community of Alabama, has been symbolized as the mockingbird that imitates the footprints of the white community in respect of merry-making with a white girl, and is blamed of committing rape of the same girl, though the girl, Mayella Ewell was the person to seduce Tom. The idea of simplicity and innocence is not confined to Tom Robinson only; rather, other characters including Scout, Jem, Dill and especially Boo also represent innocence and simplicity attributed to the mockingbird. The awareness with the existence of evil, inequality and social injustice also serves as a blow to the simplicity these innocent children contain.

The idea of someone unusual, mysterious or supernatural is also depicted as the sign of divine support to rescue the innocent individuals undergoing serious problems from cruel and unjust clutches of society. The unreliable judicial system, favoring the influential groups on racial basis, is also an imperative theme of the novel. Autobiographical elements can also be found in the novel, as a literary work always aims to describe the personality behind it and his biographical background. It is not the case with Lee’s novel only; rather, the same is the case with Milton ’s Paradise Lost, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, Henrik Ibsen’s Wild Duck, D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and like. Actually literature is the imitation of real life and the writers and poets try to produce the same as they observe in their everyday life around them. As man is the product of society, the creation of literature serves as the mirror to social norms, values, mores, ethics and cultural traits. Thus, almost all pieces of literature reflect the ideas the author draw out from his environment breathing within the boundaries of a social set up. The same is the case while writing novels, plays, fiction and poetry. It is also a fact beyond doubt that more thought-provoking and brilliant the author’s personality is, the more a piece of literature covers and reflects different aspects of the biographical background of its author.

The term “mockingbird” is a symbol of the decency, simplicity, goodness and innocence, which is spoiled and damaged by the unjust social system prevailing in every culture of the world. The novel begins with the naive ideas of the protagonist and the main narrator Scout Flinch, her brother Jem and summer friend Dill. All the three children always make a good countenance of the people of society in their childhood. The novelist emphatically views the goodness in children that forbids them from thinking wrong and doing unfair to others. The children actually are unaware of the evil and mischievous activities committed by the grown ups to hurt and harm others. Similarly, the author has also tried to submit that unseen forces also maintain both positive and negative elements within it; though positive elements come out successful at last by paying a ransom amount of losses, pains and sacrifices. The transition in the opinions and views of the innocent children, from simplicity to experience, pretends quite a new and novel turn in human life. The Songs of Innocence and Experience, created by William Blake (1759) also indicate the similar theme described by Lee.

The element of crime and consequent unjust court procedures revealed in the novel remind the readers the great depression of 1930s, faced by the whole world in the aftermath of WWI. The novel, under study, also portrays the somber theme of the uncertain time period as the events took place in the novel indicated great economic depression. It also reminds us Lady Galsworthy’s play “Justice” (1924) on the one hand, and Margaret Drabble’s “The Ice Age” (1977) on the other. The crime, unjust imprisonment and consequent unnatural death are quite common in all the works described above. The defense of the black man Tom during his trial at the court of law reveals the nature and intensity of the biased ness the white majority maintained in the beginning of twentieth century. The false accusation of rape inflicted by a white girl upon an innocent black man turns into a racial issue and the wealthy and dominant white community comes out to defend not the blame their community member has raised, but to protect and safeguard their intense feelings of hatred and prejudice they maintained in their minds against the black stratum of society.


Writing has been esteemed as one of the noblest professions for the last many centuries all over the world. The writers, poets, novelists, play-wrights and critics are thought to be the pioneers of the society. Their creative pieces are regarded as the mirror to society that point out the errors, mistakes and blunders being exercised by both the individuals and authorities. Hence they serve as the brain-developer of the individual including rulers, conquerors, economists, politicians, business tycoons and others. The significance of this stratum has been evident because of molding and shaping the minds and characters of the future generations. Jones (2000) observes: “The mind is cultivated, nurtured, and assisted primarily by writers. And because of these essential activities, writers and their profession have been esteemed throughout history”.


Melissa. To Kill a Mockingbird: Popularity and Influence, 2007. Web.

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