To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Harper Lee

The youngest of four children born to Amasa Lee and Frances Finch Lee, Nelle Harper Lee earned a law degree from the University of Alabama in 1949 and spent a year at Oxford in England, but in 1950 moved to New York to focus on writing. In 1960 she published To Kill a Mockingbird, which became an immediate and immense success. Lee then retreated from the spotlight to her hometown of Monroeville. In 2015, Lee's publisher released a draft of her first novel Go Set a Watchman, which Lee had written in 1957 and then reworked to become Mockingbird.
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Historical Context of To Kill a Mockingbird

In 1931, nine black teenage boys were accused of rape by two white girls. The trials of the boys lasted six years, with convictions, reversals, and numerous retrials. These trials were given the name The Scottsboro Trials, made national headlines, and drastically intensified the debate about race and racism in America. Ultimately, after six years of trials in which the boys were kept in jail, and despite the fact that one of the girls ultimately changed her testimony and claimed that no rape had actually occurred, five of the nine were convicted of rape.

Other Books Related to To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, and while it is the story of Scout's growing up it is also a story of the racially charged atmosphere of the town in the years of the Great Depression. To Kill a Mockingbird therefore falls into that particular subset of American literature called Southern literature, since it deals both explicitly and implicitly with themes and issues that were uniquely Southern. To Kill a Mockingbird also shares many connections with what is perhaps the most important book written by an American Southerner: Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Both novels have a trouble-making child as their protagonist and narrator, and both novels chart the growth of those narrators as their adventurers force them to see the unfairness and brutality of their community and society, particularly in regard to the treatment of blacks.
Key Facts about To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Full Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
  • When Written: 1950-1960
  • Where Written: New York City and Monroeville, Alabama
  • When Published: 1960
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Coming-of-age novel (bildungsroman); social novel
  • Setting: The fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression
  • Climax: The trial of Tom Robinson; or when Bob Ewell attacks Scout and Jem
  • Antagonist: Bob Ewell
  • Point of View: First person; Scout is looking back at the events of the novel from some unspecified future time.

Extra Credit for To Kill a Mockingbird

Descendant of General Lee. Harper Lee is actually a descendant of the famed Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

"Dill" Capote. The character of Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird is based on Harper Lee's real-life childhood friend, Truman Capote, who went on to become a national literary star in his own right, and wrote the bestselling true-crime book In Cold Blood.