Celebrating 50 Years of To Kill A Mockingbird

An Interactive Reading Guide

The World of Scout:
Through the Eyes of a Child

To Kill A Mockingbird, Anniversary EditionTo Kill A Mockingbird, Anniversary Edition DVDMockingbird, a biography of author Harper Lee by Charles ShieldsHey Boo, a film on DVD about the life of Harper Lee and the American classic she created.  



 

 

 


This year the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, the DC Public Library, and book lovers everywhere are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Generations of readers and audiences have embraced this evocative, semiautobiographical work.  Not bad for a book set in the 1930s, published in the 1940s, and made into a film in the 1960s!  Its longevity may well revolve around the riveting story about racial cruelty told in the dreamy voice of an innocent, but observant, child.  Tomboy Scout may be tough, but she is honest where it counts.  Her father, Atticus Finch, is her family's and her town's moral center.  Her brother, Jem, strives to grow into a gentleman like his father.  The children answer to their African American housekeeper, Calpurnia, who speaks "two languages"; one in her own community and another in town.  Their neighbors pull together to help save each other, just before they pull apart as the result of a rape trial based on false testimony against a black man.

Author Harper Lee bases the fictional town of Maycomb on her hometown Monroeville, Alabama.   Monroeville, also known as "The Literary Capital of Alabama", is both the cradle of her youth and her refuge from fame.  Here is where she met her lifelong friend, Truman Capote, the man who brought her to New York to launch her career and who, quite possibly, is the model for the character Dill, Scout's summer playmate and "betrothed".   The life of the elusive Harper Lee is further explored in Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee and I Am Scout, both by Charles Shields.


While the film has touched millions, the novel allows readers to immerse themselves in the childhood world of Scout, Jem, and Dill.  In these pages, we see Scout try to calm her brother by comparing him to his favorite football player, a handsome devil.  Here we can see her neighbor ladies' beautiful southern gardens, in the midst of the Depression, possibly much like writer Eudora Welty's famed garden.  And here we taste Miss Maudie's very special Lane Cake, with the secret ingredient of too much "skinny", which makes Scout a little "tight".

A Century of Change:
Related Reading and Viewing

 Mamie Till's account of her son's murder and its aftermath.Dear Senator, an account by Strom Thurmond's secret African American daughter.A Gathering of Old Men, by Ernest GainesLittle Rock Girl 1957 reveals the story behind the iconic photo at Central High.










The 20th century changed this country. The struggles brought by The Great Depression, World War II, and the civil rights movement transformed America into another, greater nation. These books and films help provide the historical background for To Kill A Mockingbird and this nation's evolving views on race relations. Ask at your neighborhood library, or visit our online catalog to see which are available in audio, or as E-books.