Discussion Questions for 3/24: To Kill a Mockingbird through Ch. 8

I will post questions about the reading at least 24 hours before our scheduled class time, and each time I will use the tag “Discussion Questions” so that you can easily find them using the sidebar.

  1. Many of you have read this novel before, likely in high school. I invite you to spend some time reflecting on what it’s like to return to this text after so much time. What do you remember about reading it the first time around? How was it taught? If you have fond memories of it, why? If you have less than fond memories, where do they come from? What’s different now – because you are older and/or because you’re reading it in the context of a Literature and Law course?
  2. Take a look at the book’s epigraph. The central plot event, Atticus’s trial, hasn’t gotten going yet in these first chapters. But in what ways are Atticus’s vocation and the law already important to this story about childhood in a Depression-era southern Alabama town? How is Atticus’s identity as a lawyer tied in with his role as a father to Scout and Jem? What laws – of custom or nature, for instance – govern life in the Finch household, the neighborhood, Maycomb? What are the operative ideas about justice, right and wrong, that govern Scout and Jem’s lives as children? Where do those ideas come from?
  3. Less a question than a piece of advice on reading historically: Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in the late 1950s. It is set about two decades earlier. As Sara Schwebel puts it, To Kill a Mockingbird is “doubly historical”: it is ostensibly about Alabama in the 1930s, but it also has much to tell us about the preoccupations and anxieties of the moment of its composition and publication, which was the inaugural moment of the Civil Rights Movement. How might we read with that double historical frame in mind?

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