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Discussion Questions for the Novel
1. When did you first read the book? What struck you about it? If you have re-read it, did it affect you differently the second time?
2. Who is your favorite character or who intrigued you and why?
3. Language is a powerful tool in this novel. The language of the children, the eloquence of Atticus and the language of the townspeople reflect their attitudes and often their prejudices. What lessons does Atticus attempt to teach Scout about the use of racial slurs?
4. Scout's world is segmented by social class and made up of insiders and outsiders. The Maycomb women in the missionary society, the poor whites of Old Sarum (white trash), the Cunninghams vs. the Ewells, the African Americans in Calpurnia's church, and others represent an intricate pattern of classes. Is there a class system today in Duluth?
5. Do you think the novel is outdated?
6. The story is set in a small Alabama town during the Depression of the 1930s. What aspects of the story seem to be particular to that place and time? What aspects are universal, cutting across time and place? In what ways are the people you know today similar to and different from those in Maycomb?
7. Since Atticus was appointed by the judge to defend Tom Robinson, some critics argue that he is not a hero or a moral lawyer because he was living his life as a passive participant. He did not actively attempt to change racism or sexism. Do you agree?
8. Lee took the title from this quote: "I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." Why did she choose this title? What's the symbolism?
9. Harper Lee called her novel "a love story." Is this an accurate characterization of the novel?
10. Do you think the Duluth Public Library's Reading: Bridge to a Wider World is an effective civic project?
Additional Topics for Discussion
Discussion Questions for
1. Compare the movie to the book. How did viewing the movie compare to the experience of reading?
2. What did the film change or leave out? Why do you think these characters and moments were altered or deleted? For example, when a lynch mob confronts Atticus before the trial, Scout's innocent interference dispels the threat of violence. Compare the scene as it occurs in Chapter 15 of the novel to the film.
3. What other films does To Kill a Mockingbird remind you of? How are they alike? How do they differ?
4. How does the film compare to the images of childhood represented in other movies or television programs you have seen?
5. If you were casting the movie today, whom would
you cast as Atticus?