To Kill a Mockingbird- Why You Should Read the Breathtaking Novel Before Watching the Movie.

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Book Rating: 5/5 stars        

Movie Rating: ⅘ stars

If you have ever watched a movie based on a novel, you may have noticed that the movie does not include all of the parts found in the book. To Kill a Mockingbird is an award-winning Bildungsroman, written by the great Harper Lee, which was made into a movie in 1962, by Robert Mulligan. Although the movie does include the major events that occurred in the book, it does leave out scenes which really take away from the perfectly written story.

To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in South Alabama, during the 1930’s, at the time of the Great Depression. The story focuses on Scout (Mary Badham), a young girl who lives with her older brother Jem (Phillip Alford), and wise father Atticus (Gregory Peck), in the fictional town of Maycomb County. Scout is faced with the racism and inequality of the town and views the evilness and injustice of the adult world through naive and innocent lenses. As a teenage girl, I was interested to see how Scout grew and matured throughout the book, learning from both Atticus and the immoral society that surrounds her. This is why I was disappointed with the movie, for not capturing the changes in Scout’s perspective and mentality, due to missing scenes, missing characters and the narration of the story itself.

An important character from the book that was left out of the movie was Aunt Alexandra. In the story, Aunt Alexandra is Atticus’ sister; the aunt of Jem and Scout. As a strong supporter of gender roles, Aunt Alexandra disapproves of Scout’s masculine way of dressing and always insists on her acting more ladylike. With no mother at home and only the influence of an older brother, Scout knows no other than to dress and act like a tom-boy; playing outside instead of inside and going by Scout instead of Jean Louise. In Maycomb, strict gender stereotypes are present and the line between masculinity and femininity is rarely crossed. Making Scout a tomboy was Harper Lee’s way of going against society’s guidelines and challenging the setting. Today, gender roles are still present in our society. Due to the lack of Aunt Alexandra in the movie, we are unable to see the existing gender roles and stereotypes of the time.

The movie To Kill a Mockingbird does not include all scenes that occur in the book. In the book, Mrs.Dubose is neighbor of the Finch’s, whom Scout describes as “plain hell”. Despite being a handicapped elder, Mrs. Dubose says enough to frighten both Jem and Scout anytime they pass by her porch. She plays an important role in the book since she taught Jem an important life lesson. One day, as Jem and Scout were passing by Mrs. Dubose’s porch, she, as always, engaged them into conversation. Rather than simply making some rude remark, this time, Mrs. Dubose crosses the line, as she refers to Atticus as a “nigger lover”. This infuriates Jem, who later comes back and rips the flowers off her camellia bushes. The scene lets us see how Jem, who is progressively maturing throughout the book, is not an adult yet, as he simply loses control of his emotions. As a result, he is forced to read to Mrs. Dubose every day after school, as a punishment for his action. Although Mrs. Dubose does appear in the movie, this specific scene does not, which does not allow the audience to see a change in Jem’s behavior, after he learns an important lesson on human dignity.

The novel To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by Scout herself. As an unreliable narrator, Scout explains the occurring events of Maycomb throughout her naive perspective. Being a child, Scout does not sugarcoat things, nor does she bend the facts to her will. She explains things exactly how she sees them and although she might not understand the meaning of several situations, she still gives her honest opinion on them. In the movie, we can also hear Scout narrating the story a couple of times. However, she only does so a few amount of times. As a result, we are unable to see her thinking evolve and mature throughout the movie like it does in the book. Due to her innocence, Scout does not see the harm and evilness of Maycomb County, nor of the people who live there.

The lack of parts and characters from the book To Kill a Mockingbird to its movie counterpart, do not deliver the original message that Harper Lee intended to leave behind with her astonishing novel. With each and every detail taken into account, Harper Lee has written a defectless novel, which does not, by any mean, need to be changed. Although the movie To Kill a Mockingbird does quite resemble its novel, it does not include the necessary elements to meet it’s book standards.

 

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To Kill a Mockingbird- Reader’s Response- Journal Entry #5

Atticus explains to Scout: “This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends and this is still our home.” This quote was said by Atticus Finch to his daughter Scout Finch, both characters from the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. As a successful lawyer in Maycomb, Atticus is well known for his intelligence, integrity, and wisdom. Most importantly, Atticus stands up against the racism of Maycomb by defending a black man, Tom Robinson, falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell.

Friends fight all the time. Whether it is by disagreeing with something silly or having small misunderstandings, we always end up by reconciling and moving on. However, I believe there are some fights you can have with friends that make it impossible to remain friends.

These fights are the ones that include betrayal, dishonesty, or disloyalty. This could happen with a friend who you thought you could trust the most. If that friend suddenly turns their back on you by sharing a secret you trusted them with, then it can feel impossible for you to forgive them. Another example could be if a friend makes up rumors about you and talks to your back. This is an example of betrayal or dishonesty that can be hard to forgive a friend for.

Atticus is often insulted by the people of Maycomb, referred to as a “nigger lover”. Atticus, very aware of the term and it’s meaning does not take the insult personally and does not consider it a reason to end friendships. Although Atticus has a strong belief in acting morally, he does not always believe in condemning those who do not act so. Instead, he teaches Jem and Scout to respect every human being and to try to view from their perspective.

When arguing with friends and family, you should always try to view the situation or argument from their viewpoint. Once you have expressed your opinion and perspective on the situation, try to let them express theirs. After hearing them talk you might be more understanding of their side of the argument and simply move on. If you still don’t feel convinced, then you might want to leave the situation as it is and not try to come up with a solution or final word. This is because there may not even be a right answer to the argument, as both sides of a story can be correct, depending on which side you view it from.

 

Journal Entry #1

Journal Entry #2

Journal Entry #3

Journal Entry #4

Education Level of African-Americans in the 1930’s- Journal Entry #1

In the 1930’s, American facilities started being segregated between whites and African-Americans. There were things such as separate transportation, separate restrooms, separate theaters and separate education. African American schools were overcrowded, low-quality and different grades were taught in the same room. During the 1930’s, African Americans did not receive the best education, especially since it was the time of the Great Depression.

Black children would often pull out of school since they were needed on the farm. Many African Americans would only attend school 2 or 3 months a year. Ones who did attend school only made it to the fourth grade or lower. It is estimated that only 19% of African American teenagers ages 14-17, enrolled in high school.

African Americans could not learn at an “advanced” level, to ensure that they were not smarter or superior to whites. The 230 counties in the South had no high schools for African Americans while there was a high school in each of those counties. This tells us more about the setting in which the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” took place, and the segregation existing at the time.

Writing From a Different Perspective- Jem

Atticus said he was “going out for a while”, and I understood he wasn’t returning anytime soon, as he said us folks will “be in bed when I come back”. The idea of Atticus wandering alone, at night in the streets of Maycomb did not reassure me at all; especially with the Tom Robinson case happening. A few moments after Atticus had left the house, I could not stop worrying about him, remembering what had happened yesterday. I could not take my mind of those men who were aggressing Atticus yesterday, and what they would have done to him if I wouldn’t have been there. That is when I decided to go after Atticus to see what he was up to and look after him.

I guess I must have been pretty loud, as Scout knocked on my door and asked: “Why ain’t you going to bed?” “I’m going downtown for a while”, I answered as I changed my pants. “Why? It’s almost ten o’clock, Jem.” I knew it, but I was going anyway. “Then I’m going‘ with you. If you say no you’re not, I’m goin’ anyway, hear?” At this point, I knew it was not worth arguing, although I was not stoked with the idea of Scout coming along. We waited until Aunty’s light went out and quietly walked down the back steps. “Dill’ll wanna come,” said Scout. Without wanting to argue, I gloomily said: “So he will.” After Dill asked what was up, Scout told I had the “look arounds”. “I’ve just got this feeling,” I said, “just this feeling.”

The south side of the square was deserted. When we rounded the corner of the square, we saw the car parked in front of the bank. “He’s in there,” I said. But he wasn’t. I peered in the bank door to make sure. I tried turning the knob, but the door was locked. “Let’s go up the street.” I said, “Maybe he’s visiting‘ Mr. Underwood.” The office building was on the northwest corner of the square, and to reach it we had to pass the jail. As we walked up the sidewalk, we saw a single light burning in the distance. “That’s funny,” I said, “jail doesn’t have an outside light.” “Looks like it’s over the door,” said Dill. A long extension cord ran between the bars of a second-floor window and down the side of the building. That’s when I remembered that Atticus come to use in the living room carrying a long extension cord at supper. And there he was, in the light from its bare bulb, Atticus was sitting propped against the front door. He was sitting in one of his office chairs, and he was reading, oblivious of the night bugs dancing over his head. Relieved, I turned to Scout with the intention of telling her we could return home, but she had other thoughts in mind. She made a run for it, but I stopped her just in time.  “Don’t go to him,” I said, “he might not like it. He’s all right, let’s go home. I just wanted to see where he was.”

Just as we were taking a shortcut across the square, four dusty cars came in from the Meridian highway, and slowly stopped in front of the jail. I then felt uneasy when I saw Atticus folding his newspaper, dropping it in his lap, and pushing his hat at the back of his head; as though he seemed to be expecting them. That’s when I knew things were about to be serious. “Come on,” I whispered. We streaked across the square, across the street, until we were in the shelter of the Jitney Jungle door. I peeked up the sidewalk. “We can get closer,” I said. We ran to Tyndal’s Hardware door—near enough, at the same time discreet.

In ones and twos, men got out of the cars. Shadows became substance as lights revealed solid shapes moving toward the jail door. Atticus remained where he was. The men hid him from view. “He in there, Mr. Finch?” a man said. “He is,” we heard Atticus answer, “and he’s asleep. Don’t wake him up.” At this point, I knew the “he” they were referring to was Tom Robinson. After hearing one of the men say “You know what we want,” and another “Get aside from the door, Mr. Finch”, I knew these men had no good intentions set for neither Tom Robinson or Atticus.

I had been so focused and concerned on the conversation between the men and Atticus, that I did not notice Scout taking off to Atticus and had now burst into the circle of light. Alarmed, Dill and I took off after her, although she had already spoken; “H-ey Atticus!”     I immediately regretted ever bringing Scout and Dill along. I knew she was to immature to understand what was going on and would only cause trouble. I could tell that Scout felt embarrassed after taking a look at the men and noticing they were complete strangers.

After seeing Dill and I had appeared, Atticus said: “Go home, Jem, take Scout and Dill home.” We were used to always agree and obey Atticus’s instructions, but this once, I was not thinking of going anywhere. When he saw I hadn’t moved, Atticus repeated himself “Go home I said.” This time, I shook my head and looked straight at him, as he looked straight at me. He insisted one last time with “Son, I said go home.” After shaking my head no agin, a burly man said: “I’ll send him home.” Suddenly, I was grabbed by my collar and nearly lifted off the ground. That’s when Scout kicked the man swiftly, and he fell back in real pain. For just that moment, I was glad not to have left Scout home.

After that, a man growled and said “All right, Mr. Finch, get ‘em outta here, you got fifteen seconds to get ’em outta here.”  Atticus stood trying to make me mind him. “I ain’t going,” was my steady answer to Atticus’s threats, and finally he said “Please Jem, take them home.” I was getting a little bit tired of that, but I had my own reasons for doing this, aware of the consequences Atticus had waiting for me once we did get home.

As a break from the silence, Scout recognized Walter Cunningham from the crowd of strangers and decided to make conversation. “Hey, Mr. Cunningham.” The man did not seem to pay attention to her. Wanting to be heard Scout continued, “Hey, Mr. Cunningham. How’s your entailment gettin‘ along?” Mr. Walter Cunningham’s legal affairs were well known to Scout as Atticus had once described them at length. The man seemed uncomfortable. Scout continued talking to him trying to get him to talk back. She even brought up Mr. Cunningham’s son, Walter Cunningham and told him they had him over for lunch once.

The last thing she had to say to him was “Entailments are bad.” This caused all of the men to look at Scout, some of them with their mouths half-open. Even Atticus had stopped poking at me, and also had his mouth half open. Suddenly, Walter Cunningham squatted down at placed his hands on Scout’s shoulders. “I’ll tell him you said hey, little lady,” Then he straightened up and called “Let’s clear out, let’s get going, boys.” That is when the men shuffled back into their cars, slammed the doors, turned on their engines, and with that, they were gone.

I felt so relieved once the men were gone, and noticed Atticus was relieved as well. He was going over his face with a handkerchief and violently blew his nose. I understood how Atticus was crazy worried about us kids, although I was crazy worried about him. I was so thankful that I had brought Scout along with me. Her naiveness and innocence in the situation were able to abash Mr. Cunningham and set some peace in the situation. As we started making our way back home, Atticus and I were well ahead as Scout and Dill maintained a slower pace. I was expecting Atticus to give me hell for not going home, but Atticus reached out and massaged my hair; his one true gesture of affection.

Term Differences and Evolution for African Americans:

Nowadays, there are many terms to refer to an African-American. Because of the many options, people often do not know what word to use in reference to a person of darker skin color and tend to make the wrong decision. This leads to misunderstandings and disagreements due to the many different opinions and perspectives regarding this topic. All of these words have different meaning and significance, and some are considered more offensive than others.

The term black is the main term used to refer to people belonging to a human group having-dark colored skin, especially of African ancestry. This term has been used to refer to an African people, since the 14th century. It was adopted by African Americans to signify a sense of racial pride and remains the most widely used and generally accepted, although it was replaced by “African American” in the U.S, as it was considered more acceptable.

The term colored is used to refer to people who are entirely or partly of non-white descent. The term was first recorded in the early 17th century when it was adopted in preference to emancipated slaves following the American Civil War. It was accepted until the 1960’s, where it was surpassed by “black”, as it was widely regarded as offensive.

The term Negro was used to refer to a member of a dark-skinned group of people originally native to Africa. The word derived from the Spanish and Portuguese language. It was first recorded in the mid-16 century although it was used during the 17-19th century. It is now considered offensive in both British and US English. Luckily, the usage of the word decreased during the years. 

The term “nigger” is now considered the most offensive word in English. Its level and degree of offensiveness have significantly increased in the past years, although its last derogatory usage was back in the Revolutionary War. The term is deeply insulting and is used in a manner to where one wishes to cause great offense. Because of its level of offensiveness, when the word itself must be discussed, it is written as “the n-word”. When the term is being used in the sense to refer to a “black person”, it is done so by African- Americans in a neutral way. Although, if the word is used by a non-black person, to refer to a black person, then that is where the controversy begins.

People tend to get confused between the term “Nigger” and “Nigga”, although they have an entirely different meaning. The term nigga in slang form is known to be one of the most popular words today. The term is used as a form of slang amongst African-Americans, mainly hip-hop musicians. The shock of African Americans using this word was done as a form to eliminate the derogatory meaning behind the word. The term has become so popular, that many cultures and other groups make use of it, considering that African- Americans are using the word as well.

I still believe there is a problem with the word Nigga. The term still roots from the term Nigger, which is a harsh word. I don’t think we can just take a negative word and change it into a positive one by changing its meaning. At an event, last month at Evanston Township High School in Illinois, the author and journalist of We Were Eight Years in Power was asked the question of why a white person should not use the word “nigga” when singing a rap song. In answer to the question, Ta-Nehisi quotes that “Words don’t have meaning without context.” What he meant by this was that your usage of vocabulary should be based on your relationship with a person. Just because certain communities choose to ironically use the word amongst themselves, does not mean that people from other communities should do so as well. “The question one must ask is why so many white people have difficulty extending things that are basic laws of how human beings interact to black people. And I think I know why.”

 

What does being a “nigger-lover” mean to the residents of Maycomb? Why is this a powerful insult?

Throughout the book, we can often find the word “nigger”. Harper Lee’s usage of this word illustrates the society she is writing about and the dehumanizing power of this term. The term “nigger lover” has also been used. During the book, Scout faces people at school, in her neighborhood and even a family member referred to Atticus as a “nigger lover”. Not only is this term is considered offensive to African-Americans, but it is to the white people who are supporting them. In To Kill a Mockingbird, this was one of the terms that reinforced the racism and segregation that was present at the time.

Because it was so widely accepted that blacks belonged in the lowest class of society, both racial groups were expected to follow and respect the lines that separated those two groups. For this reason, it was not seen well if a person from either race was cross those lines of social morality. I believe this is the reason behind the term “nigger lover”, that we often encounter throughout the book. When a white person would call another white person by this term, it was often done as a sign of disapproval for having crossed those lines. It was done as a way to remind one who they are and where they belong.

 

Education in the 1930’s- Journal Entry #2

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In the United States, the public school system was designed to take all children from all background and abilities, and give them the proper education they needed for a successful future.

During the Great Depression, many problems with American education occurred. Although education was free and available to all, different parts of the U.S received lower education quality compared to others. The South was one of the areas where public schools were in severe need of money. Communities were unwilling to spend money on the low-quality public schools, to the point where education was not considered a top priority.

This relates to the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”, as we can tell the education Scout is receiving is not the highest quality. Although the Finches’ are in a good economic position, the school which Scout goes to doesn’t have the highest education level. We can notice that the children in Scout’s class are all in different socio-economic positions, such as Walter Cunningham. I believe Atticus did the right thing by pushing Scout to go to school because he continued considering education as a top-priority, even though others did not think the same.

The House on Mango Street Review – Sandra Cisneros’ influential and meaningful bestseller, leaves readers impacted.

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⅘ stars

Sandra Cisneros, an illustrious Mexican-American writer, tells a story through a series of vignettes, about Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl and the challenges she faces growing up in a segregated neighborhood in Chicago.

Born in Chicago Illinois, Sandra Cisneros is an author, activist poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist and artist. Writing for over 50 years, her work explores the lives of the working-class and she writes broadly about the Latina experience in the United States. In the introduction of the 25th-anniversary edition of The House on Mango Street, Cisneros describes how she felt displaced during her childhood and has never felt a strong sense of connection to Chicago. One of seven children, and the only daughter, Cisneros was not necessarily encouraged to spend her time abiding to gender roles around the house , but was mostly encouraged to develop her imagination by reading. Perhaps, this is how she got the idea to create the character of Esperanza in the book.

In The House on Mango Street, Cisneros uses her Latino heritage to tell “an invented autobiography” of  Esperanza, a young Mexican- American girl whose family moves into the Latino section of Chicago. As Esperanza is growing up, she learns about the harsh reality of her neighborhood and the people within it. Esperanza doesn’t want to belong, neither to her neighborhood nor to the low expectations society has built up for her. Throughout the book, she often clashes with her socioeconomic status; friendships and role of peers; love, sexuality/gender norms; and her cultural expectations. As the story progresses and she comes of age, she learns to build and find her individual and cultural identity, deciding for herself what she wants to become.

Throughout the book, we repeatedly encounter the two themes of money and socioeconomic status as well as love and sexuality/gender norms. From the beginning of the novel, Esperanza’s main goal was to live in a perfect house, which is what she was expecting when she arrived on Mango Street. However, the house is nothing like she expected it to be, in fact it was small and partly dilapidated, as her family could afford nothing more. That was one of the many times in the book where Esperanza clashes with her socioeconomic status. This lets us see how naive and immature she was at the beginning of the novel, to think holding on to physical things, such as a house, would represent who she is.

Esperanza is also faced with challenges based on her sexuality, and the gender norms she is considered to follow as a woman. Since the beginning of the book, Esperanza realizes how men and women “live in separate worlds”, and that women are powerless in her society. Many of the women on Mango Street, such as Minerva, Mamacita, Rosalina, and Rafaela, are trapped in Mango Street because of their gender and cannot take flight. This is a position Esperanza doesn’t want to end up in; on the other hand, Esperanza wants to take flight and doesn’t want to depend on a man to come and rescue her. So Esperanza decides to become the “beautiful and cruel” women seen in the movies, the one who is wanted by men she doesn’t want back, as her power is her own. This way, Esperanza figures she can have both sexuality and autonomy. However, Esperanza soon finds this impossible to have on Mango Street, as her friend Sally is taken advantage of by boys, and she is herself assaulted and rapped. At the end of the book, when Esperanza mentions how she is planning to return to Mango to help the ones who are “left behind”, she was referring to the trapped women on Mango Street.

The book is structured in a series of vignettes. As you are reading the book, you can tell how each vignette clashes and connects to the next, and to Esperanza’s personality. Although not all of the vignettes are organized in a chronological order, you still have to read it from beginning to end, to really see how the character changes throughout the novel. It reads like a diary entry, simply of a girl growing up, and overcoming trials to reach her dream.

The House on Mango Street is a book filled with harsh realities, life lessons and hidden meanings, that will touch each and every reader. Cisneros was able to write about her life experiences and express the useful knowledge and principles that can be learnt from them, throughout the character Esperanza. It is a beautiful book, with an essential message, that states how no matter where you come from, you will always find your “home in the heart” and become the person you truly are. It is a wonderfully written novel.

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