Nelle Harper Lee (April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016) was an American novelist widely known for To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Immediately successful, it won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. Though Lee had only published this single book, in 2007 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. Additionally, Lee received numerous honorary degrees, though she declined to speak on those occasions. She was also known for assisting her close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). Capote was the basis for the character Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird.
The plot and characters of To Kill a Mockingbird are loosely based on Lee's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. The novel deals with the irrationality of adult attitudes towards race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s, as depicted through the eyes of two children. The novel was inspired by racist attitudes in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.
Another novel, Go Set a Watchman, was written in the mid-1950s and published in July 2015 as a "sequel", though it was later confirmed to be To Kill a Mockingbird's first draft.
One can appreciate this film without having read the original novel, but for the purposes of our class discussion, I encourage people to do so. It's always interesting to compare and contrast a book with its cinematic version.
1. Why do you think this film was as controversial as the book, especially (but not exclusively) in America's South?
2. Who comes to see Atticus at the beginning of the movie? Why does Atticus tell Scout not to call for him next time?
3. Describe the setting of the movie. How is it similar to or different from what you imagined?
4. Who is Dill’s aunt in the movie?
5. What is the movie’s explanation for why Boo is stuck in the house?
6. What does Atticus tell Scout will be hers when she is older?
7. Describe the conversation between Mr. Ewell and Atticus at the courthouse.
8.What are the main differences from the book to the movie in the scene where Jem loses his pants?
9. Why doesn’t Scout want to come into the breakfast room on her first day of school?
10. What does Jem ask Walter Cunningham about at lunch? Why does Atticus say it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird?
11. What is Atticus’ “simple trick” to get along with folks?
12. What is a “compromise” according Atticus?
13. Which version do you prefer of the Tim Johnson (mad dog) scene, the movie or book? Why?
14. Describe what happens when Atticus and the children go to visit Helen Robinson late at night. Why do you think the filmmakers include this scene?
15. Who finds the first item in the knot hole? What is it?
16. What reason does Atticus give Scout for why he’s defending Tom Robinson?
17. What was in Jem’s box that Scout promised never to tell anyone about?
18. When you watch the courtroom scene, what is similar or different from what you imagined? What is left out from the book?
19. How does the film reveal that Tom is crippled?
20.When Tom Robinson is charged, do you feel the scene is as powerful as in the book? Why or why not?
21. When Atticus reveals that Tom has died, what was the most significant difference in the description of what happened to Tom from in the book?
22. How does the scene of Mr. Tate and Atticus talking after the children’s attack differ from in the book?
23. Which characters or scenes do you miss the most from the book? Why?
24. What is gained OR lost by the film version being shot in 3rdperson point of view, instead of the Scout’s 1stperson point of view in the book?
25. What benefits are there from having a film version of a classic book like To Kill a Mockingbird?
26. “They” always seem to say that a book is better than a movie version. Do you agree or disagree with this statement regarding To Kill a Mockingbird? Why?
27. Would you like to see an updated version of the film, or is the black and white film still worth viewing? Why?