Thursday, July 25, 2013

TKAM Part 2

So today is the check-in for the middle of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Chapter 12-21 is what I will be talking about today.  And as I did in the first part, I will talk a little bit about things that teachers can point out to their English students about this book.

First off, the beginning of this part really starts to set the stage for the trial. We start to figure out Harper Lee's reasoning through Scout's eyes for why people are racist.  In my estimation, it is because we like to stick people in a box. There is a quote in the book that really points this out that students might readily pick up on.
Aunt Alexandra, in underlining the moral of young Sam Meriweather's suicide, said it was caused by a morbid streak in the family.  Let a sixteen-year-old girl giggle in the choir and Aunty would say, "It just goes to show you, all the Penfield women are flighty."  Everybody in Maycomb, it seemed had a Streak: a Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak (172).
If everyone has a streak, then everyone has a box, and we can stick them in that to judge them.  To me racism in the book really comes out because we have to stick everyone in a box...even the Cunninghams and the Ewells.  When Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to church with her, they are stuck in a box because they are white children in a black church.

Not only do we put ourselves in boxes but people get stuck in their ways.  As Scout explains:
The older citizens, the present generation of people who had lived side by side for years and years, were utterly predictable to one another: they took for granted attitudes, character shadings, even gestures, as having been repeated in each generation and refined by time (175).
So it is interesting as Atticus tries to push the envelope of race, he knows he is going to loose because the people are predictable.

Aside from the racism ideas, they are a couple of writing prompts you can use with the class to get them thinking.  For example, at the beginning of chapter 12 Scout describes summer and you can really picture it.  Have the students write their own description of their favorite season--practice sensory imagery.  Or you can have them respond to different things in the story like this quote on page 179. "It takes a woman to do that kind of work." It is interesting for students to try to figure out what she really means by that.  Or having them write about why they think Atticus took the case. There are lots you can do...


misfortuneofknowing said...

Interesting thoughts! Yes, we like to put people in boxes, and the solution to it is to "consider things from [the other person's] point of view" by "climb[ing] into his skin and walk[ing] around in it (page 32)." I appreciate how Lee tries to show how people are complicated (such as Mrs. Dubose and Mr. Raymond, who aren't as they initially appear). By the way, what age/grade level do you think is the best one for teaching "To Kill a Mockingbird"? I read it around age 11 (and, two decades later, read it again as part of this Read-along).

Kimberly Hawks said...

Great points...Atticus really sticks out because of it. Also great question...typically in the U.S. I see students read this in school in high school. Honestly I think any age of high school will get it with the right coaching from the teacher. However, I think that it should be taught the same year they do US History or the year after so that the historical references make sense.