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To Kill a Mockingbird Revision Guide: Literary Techniques

Updated on September 24, 2016

Contents

This will be a repository of all of the techniques used in the To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, including associated characters, key quotes, and other aspects to do with literary techniques

Creation of double plots

The key double plot within the book is the Boo Radley-Tom Robinson complex which exists. The purpose is to help us relate each character to the other, so we have contrasting characters and can easily see some of the main themes.

Boo Radley and Tom Robinson

  • Both can be related to us
  • Both tom and Boo have been unfairly sentenced
  • Both mockingbirds
  • Both outcasts
  • Both been imprisoned
  • Both help people in need
  • Both punished for helping/ being kind to people (shot, hole in tree gets filled)
  • Both descriptions are similar; soft/ feathery & velvet
  • A linked plot: Boo saves children due to the outcome of the trial
  • One saves life, one gives life
  • Justice and injustice
  • Both are exactly the same but are seen as monsters in society

Narrative Voice

The narrative voice is a description of who is telling the story. Who tells the story can have a significant impact on how the story is told and what the reader takes away from the story

  • Childs perspective – allows humour, last chapter “looking crossed eyed”
  • Simplicity of the problem, Tom’s innocence, “folks are folks” pg 250, not really difficult, child looking at childhood
  • Innocence of child and adult looking back
  • We are taught a lesson “he's just a Cunningham” – labelling isn’t always correct and everyone is different

Symbolism

Symbolism is an incredibly powerful tool that allows an author to convey a meaning or some kind of imagery. It can also be used to conceal a meaning if it is controversial. These symbols listed below are small and tend to be non-recurring themes. A larger list of symbols can be found here.

Mockingbird

“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” pg 99, Mr. Underwood likens the trial to shooting a mockingbird, “he likened toms death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children” pg 265

Mocking bird crosses social boundaries and prejudice – “high above us in the darkness a solitary mocker poured out his repertoire in blissful unawareness of whose tree he sat in” pg 281

Snow

Pg 71 “Jem had never seen snow but he had heard of if” – justice, white – purity, snowman is a symbol of justice – false, has to be held up by mud, white justice – shouldn’t be there, the snowman melts

Mrs Dubose

Pg 124, Destruction of Camellias, Mrs. Dubose, white – purity (irony), racism grows back again.

Jem identifies Racism in the white community, white flowers, and destroys it, but it grows back again, showing that violence isn’t the answer when it comes to getting rid of racism

“She was a great lady” – Atticus interoperates it as courage

Others

Tim Johnson – diseased dog, diseased Maycomb with racism

Fire, loss of childhood, Miss Maudie, voice of Harper Lee, bad things can happen to innocent people

Setting

Settings are key within To Kill a Mockingbird, and each setting or environment helps to define the characters that live or frequent the area.

Finches landing

  • Pg 4 – it was customary for the men in the family to remain on Simon’s homestead... supplied by river-boats from Mobile.
  • Pg 88 – Finch’s Landing consisted of three hundred and sixty-six steps down... and slicked back his hair.

Maycomb

Place of complacency, lack of progress

“Tired old town” stuck in old ways

Enclosed town with extremes of people, ultimate good and ultimate bad

“Black dog suffered” – black community

“Ladies bathed before noon...” masking the dirtiness – bad smell

  • Pg 5 – Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather... (pg 6) Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself.
  • Pg 164 – we went by Mrs. Dubose’s house, standing empty and shuttered... no stranger would suspect that it was full of niggers.
  • Pg 144 – because its primary reason for existence was government... her mother did the same.

‘The Radley Place’

Nature locked them in their house

The house was low – morally low

Grey house – darkened life – dead life

Shutters locked on Sunday - exile

  • Pg 7 – The Radley place was inhabited by an unknown entity the mere description of whom was enough to make us behave for days on end.
  • Pg 9 – the Radley place jutted into a sharp curve beyond our house... rabbit-tobacco grew in abundance.
  • Pg 16 – The old house was the same, droopy and sick, but as we stared down the street we thought we saw an inside shutter move. Flick. A tiny, almost invisible movement and the house were still.
  • Pg 267 – The Radley place ceased to terrify me... – scouts changed thought about the house, loss of innocence

Summer

  • Pg 38 – summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was... summer was Dill. This repetition is very similar to how the book closes in the last chapter where the book looks at the story from boo’s perspective.
  • Pg 128 – but summer was Dill by the fish-pool smoking string, dill’s eyes alive... I stayed miserable for 2 days

Mr Avery

  • Pg 56 – Mr Avery boarded across... I was untalented in this area.

Back of ‘The Radley place’

  • Pg 58 – The back of the Radley house was less inviting than the front:... caught the moon and shone eerily

The night Jem lost his ‘pants’

  • Pg 61 – Had Jem’s pants been safely on him, we wouldn’t have slept much anyway. Every night-sound I heard from my cot on the back porch was magnified three-fold... until I heard Jem murmur.
  • Pg 63 – it was no use. I unlatched the back door and held it... sweat running down my sides.

Autumn in Maycomb

  • Pg 66 – there are no clearly defined seasons in South Alabama...when our knot hole stopped us again.

Winter in Maycomb

  • Pg 70 – for reasons unfathomable to the most experienced prophets in Maycomb County, autumn turned to winter that year... and discomfort to ourselves.

Miss Maudie’s house fire

  • Pg 76 – while the fire silently devoured Miss Maudie’s house...

Christmas at Finches Landing

  • Pg 85 – Jem and I viewed Christmas with mixed feelings... and disliked my ingenuous diversions.

February, Tim Johnson being shot

  • Pg 105 – nothing is more deadly than a deserted, waiting street... rubbed his hand slowly down the side of his thigh.
  • Pg 106 – when Atticus raised his glasses Calpurnia murmured... he didn’t know what hit him

Beginning to chapter 11

  • Pg 110 – when we were small, Jem and I confined our activities to the southern end of the neighbourhood...

Mrs Dubose’s house

  • Pg 117 – an oppressive odour met us when we crossed the threshold... on three tiny legs

Spring

  • Pg 122 – that spring was a good one: the days grew longer... one evening when the telephone rang.

Getting ready for Calpurnia’s church

  • Pg 129 – if Calpurnia had ever bathed me roughly before, it was nothing compared to her supervision of that Saturday...until she saw her face in them

First Purchase African M.E. Church

  • Pg 130 – first purchase African M.E. church was in the quarters outside the southern town limits... responding to the greetings of her brightly clad neighbours
  • Pg 132 – first purchase was unceiled and unpainted within... Tyndal’s hardware co.

Saturday morning, before the Court

  • Pg 174 – a wagonload of ladies rattled past us. They wore cotton sun-bonnets and dresses with longs sleeves... of uttermost wickedness.

Outside the Court house

  • Pg 176 – it was a gala occasion... Mr. Dolphus Raymond sat with them.
  • (describing ‘mixed chillen’) Pg 178 – A small boy clutching a Negro woman’s hand... to make him stop.
  • pg 178 – Some invisible signal had made the lunchers on the square rise and scatter bits of newspaper... they waited patiently at the doors behind the white families.

The Court house

Concrete pillars supporting its south roof are too heavy – justice will collapse

Clock tower – view of the town (rusty, old) trying to keep the past (justice)

Court house is built around the old court house burnt down in 1865 (civil war end) – old court house is still there just hidden by the newer building

  • pg 179 – The Maycomb county court-house was faintly reminiscent of the Arlington one in one respect... they seemed untouched by wind or sun.
  • Pg 181 – the coloured balcony ran along three walls of the court-room like... their backs were to us.

Ewell’s house

Behind the white’s garbage – blacks don’t live here, making the Ewell’s worse than them (irony)

Cold & harsh – reflecting town and their opinions towards the Ewell family

  • Pg 188 – Maycomb Ewell’s lived behind the town garbage dump in what was once a Negro cabin... when we rode back past the Ewell residence. – “model T ford (on blocks)” American dream (owning a car, etc) – not going anywhere

Atticus undressing in court

  • Pg 223 – Atticus paused, and then he did something he didn’t ordinarily do... and the tips of his pen and pencil winking in the light

Just before the acquitting (scout’s view)

  • Pg 232 – but I must have been reasonably awake, or I would not have received the impression that was... a steaming summer night was no different from a winter morning.

August after the trial

  • Pg 251 August was on the brink of September... Calpurnia and Miss Maudie
  • Pg 253 – The ladies were cool in fragile pastel prints... and waited for someone to speak to me.

Barker’s Eddie

  • Pg 263 – Barker’s Eddie is at the end of a dirt road of the meridian highway about a mile from town... and swimmers are careful not to say too late.

Halloween

  • Pg 278 – So the Maycomb ladies said things would be different this year... created by the wearer
  • Pg 280 – the weather was unusually warm... there was no moon.
  • Pg 281 – high above us in the darkness a solitary mocker... poor will ... we had slowed to a cautious gait, and were feeling our way forward... the lights in the high-school auditorium were blazing in the distance.
  • Pg 286-290

The book from Boo’s Perspective

  • Pg 307 – It was summer time… Autumn again, and boo’s children needed him. This shows that scout has grown up and learnt from her mistakes about judging people. This comes from the quote which Atticus says about looking at things from another perspective, which scout learns to do well by thinking what boo has seen these past 2 years.

Foreshadowing

House burning – injustice, the children’s world will collapse and burn, loss of innocence

Shooting the dog – doesn’t kill the racism but stops it from spreading, killing dog to stop rabies from spreading, ‘shooting’ at Maycomb to make them realise that racism is there (maybe to help stop it

Gothic

Pg 9 – boo’s description & pg 14, used to create fear so the reader is prejudice against boo, but as the book goes on, the reader realises their mistake and gets to like boo

Irony

Mrs Dubose criticises Atticus for helping a black man, when she needs help from her black servant

Missionary circle, her large brown eyes filled with tears (pg 254) about the Africans, but are hurtful and degrading about the black community

Pg 290 – Hitler, him with the Jews are like Maycomb with the blacks

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