To Kill a Mockingbird Book Club Discussion – Day 3

Good morning and welcome back to the CSLJ Book Club’s discussion of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Today’s discussion questions are:

  1. Harper Lee originally wrote the book from the point of view of an adult Jean Louise (Scout)  but her editor loved the flashbacks to her childhood and asked Lee to rewrite the book with the Scout as a young girl. How do you think telling the story from a child’s perspective affects the story?
  2. Do you think the Scout, Jem, and Dill’s antics, especially their fascination with Boo Radley, add to the book?
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming of age story. Are there any particular episodes in the book that you think are especially significant in Scout, Jem, or Dill’s development?

You can join in the conversation by leaving your thoughts and opinions here in the comments. Missed one of our previous posts or want to see some of the great comments other book club members wrote about the book? Click here to see our discussion so far.

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3 Responses to To Kill a Mockingbird Book Club Discussion – Day 3

  1. It’s a coming of age story. It neither starts nor ends with Tom Robinson, but with Scout, Jem, and Mr. Arthur Radley. It’s not scouts either, it’s Jem’s

    The trial and aftermath set in motion the external forces that buffet Jem as he struggles with young adulthood.

  2. I’ve always loved the way Harper Lee depicts an American childhood. Telling the story from the younger Scout’s POV adds so much humor and fun to the story but also let’s us get past our own issues and prejudices to see the situation from the eyes of an innocent. No one has such a keenly felt sense of fairness than a child. No one is so quick to notice inconsistencies and hypocrisy as a kid trying to figure out the world and Harper Lee highlights that beautifully but telling her story through the eyes of a child.

    In a lot of ways, To Kill a Mockingbird reminds me of another great American classic – Huckleberry Finn (and to some degree, Tom Sawyer). Both Mark Twain and Harper Lee try to tackle the issue of racism in the American South and I think it isn’t a coincidence that they both used children as their protagonists. They both depicted the South – the good, the bad, and the ridiculous and they both did it with humor, pathos, and social commentary mixed together. The only difference is that Mark Twain is famous for his humor and Harper Lee does not get enough credit for how funny she is.

    I think both Twain and Lee portray childhood – especially a Southern childhood – in a way that is so engaging and inviting that it draws the reader in. Also telling the story from the point of view of children, with their games and their fixations, and foibles, helps aim their books and their message at a younger audience and getting into the heads of the next generation can only help when it comes to making a major difference in the world.

  3. As for the coming of age part, there are so many pivotal moments in the book where one or more of the children pass a major threshold. I agree that Jem grows a great deal. Learning to appreciate his father for his strength of character (instead of being embarrassed that he was too old to play football like the other dads) was huge for him. As was learning that sometimes life isn’t fair but you still try your best.

    But I disagree with Rob that the story is really about Jem. When we talked about The Secret Garden, we spoke about how Mary Lennox stopped being the main character of that book as she stopped speaking and acting towards the end, yielding center stage to Colin. She was barely in the last few pages of the book.

    Scout, though, never fades into the background. She is the one who comes face to face with Boo Radley. She is the one who helps Atticus and the Sheriff piece together what happened. And she is the one that realizes why the Sheriff is so insistent that Bob Ewell fell on his knife – making the connection between Boo Radley and the mockingbird.

    Jem may mature and realize some truths about the world but so does Scout. She’s always been a force of nature, without subtlety, going straight for what she wants, shooting off her mouth and punching out with her fists without thinking things through. But I think that changes over the course of the novel. Scout will always be a force of nature but she is deeper, wiser, and more deliberate at the end of the book than she is at the beginning.

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