- Today’s class was focused on just reading through the last of the novel. A lot happens in the final chapters and much of it is quite surprising and unexpected, such as finally knowing more about the character of Boo Radley.
- Check out the summary and analysis from Sparksnotes on Chapters 28-31 if you would like to review.
- We had a comedy of errors this morning. At first, there were only three students with a fourth showing up just in time for the bell. With less than half the class, it didn’t seem right to continue with the reading and discussions, so we agreed to watch the rest of the movie. Then someone else showed up. And another. And another. And then another! Finally, with eight students here, we decided to keep reading! It seemed to be quite a comical beginning to the day, though!
- We reviewed what had just happened when we finished reading yesterday. Scout had just witnessed the strength that women can show at times of difficulty. Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra just put their shoulders back, held up their heads, and continued serving their guests without ever letting on how emotionally upset they were by the death of Tom and the continuation of disappointments for the Finch family.
- One point to really make clear from what we read together today is the parallelism between two seemingly unrelated events in Ch 25. When the chapter begins, Scout is playing with a bug and is about to sqwash it when Jem sternly tells her not to. Later in the chapter, when describing how Helen Robinson looks when she is told about her husband’s death, Dill describes it as if she were a bug and someone had sqwashed her with their shoe. What the author did is foreshadow that feeling of danger or oppression with Scout’s bug story.
- We also recognized the irony of Scout’s teacher being so upset by the oppression of the Jews by Hitler when she was overheard saying the guilty verdict for Tom was good for “em” so the Black community realized their place in their society and didn’t get the idea they were equal. (247) It is all too common for people to recognize prejudice in the actions of others, but not be able to see it clearly in their own lives. (This includes myself – we’re all in part hypocrites in some way.)
We talked about one movie that has a very similar storyline – A Time to Kill. I usually show a portion of this for students to recognize that, even though the story we are reading takes place in the 1960s after many changes had been put in place to encourage equality between Blacks and Whites in the U.S., this movie shows that those prejudiced ideas still exist and are strong in some parts of the South. It’s “tradition”, that type of thinking, which is passed from each generation to the next.
There’s also another movie, Mississippi Burning, which is a great movie that follows the FBI investigation into the disappearance of three Civil Rights workers in the deep South. It was believed that they were killed by the Klu Klux Klan. The interesting thing about that investigation and the trials of the men believed to be responsible for those murders is that instead of trying them for murder, a State violation of law which would have had them tried by a Jury of their peers – other KKK members, the Federal government charged the men with Civil Rights violations, meaning they were tried out of their state without the protection of “friends” on the jury.
- I have to say reading through this novel with a class of students has been one of my more memorable parts of teaching English classes, and this year is proving to be no exception. When you read a story, you experience things as like the narrator does, the emotions, the let-downs, the shocks. The narration by the character of Scout is such a perfect one. Seeing such things, hatred, prejudice, discrimination, hypocrisy, from the eyes of such a young child who knows it’s wrong and can’t figure out why people can be so hurtful makes the point so clear – that we are taught these things. We are taught to hate, to discriminate, to hurt others. It’s hard not to read this novel and be thankful for being born into a society and time of history where situations and events like these seem unreal. How important for this group of students to learn that the world was like this at one time and continues to be so.
- Through the reading, we learned of Tom’s death. We discovered Aunt Alexandra’s true loyalty and protective nature for her brother. We also saw again the distinction that Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra have the strength within themselves to stand up for an issue (like making a comment to stop a gossip in her tracks at the tea) but still be a lady about it.
- We also discussed the comparison in the novel of two ideas: It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird because all it does is make beautiful music for people and Atticus explained to Scout that it was ten times worse to take advantage of a Black man. This shows clearly that the symbol of the mockingbird in the novel represents, among other things, Tom Robinson. He is a man who’s done nothing wrong but try to help others, so it’s a sin to have him destroyed the way the Ewell’s have succeeded in doing.
- Another of the realizations for Scout and Jem is shown through their conversation about “kinds of folks”. Jem thinks he can clearly see four different distinctions of folks: “the kind like [the Finch family] and the neighbours, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes” (226) This seems quite something for a young boy to recognize. Scout sees only one kind of people, just “folks” (227).
In reality, there are these distinctions so Jem’s version is true, but one of the messages of the novel is the idea that truthfully, in a perfect world, there should only one type of people… just people. This shows the innocence still present in Scout’s world, again part of the reason why our story is told through the eyes of a child.
One thing about learning to appreciate art more personally is to see the unique and new ways old ideas are being used. The artist Phil Hansen we learned about at the beginning of our course is a perfect example of this – his idea of art goes outside the normal boundaries. He has taken ideas and given new life to them by using new mediums or methods to acheive fantastic expressions of himself. For today’s class, your task is to seek out examples of artists expressing themselves in completely original and inspiring ways!
There are certain guidelines and expectations with this assignment, which will be detailed for you. This is to ensure your online searching does not become an aimless use of your class time. However, the true purpose of this time and research is for you individually to find inspiration and interest in art-related examples.
To do this, and for it to be personally relevant and valuable, you cannot talk with anyone or share with them what you find. You can keep a URL list of interesting things to share at a later time with your peers, but for this task today it has to be done on your own, independent of any influence or participation from others.
- Find ten truely unique / impressive / original examples of an artist or type of art that could defy what most people would consider to be art. They may use a new medium, use a common one in new ways, or be expressing it in a way that has never been done before. Keep the url link to each of these ten, or copy and paste the actual images onto a word document. From those ten, then, the challenge here is to find the “most unique” that will draw some surprising response from your peers when shared with them later.
- For your searching, you may look at Google images or do a search on Google web for new art ideas. This assignment, though, will not include any youtube examples of new demonstrations of art. This assignment should, also, only include Visual Art examples.
- With your chosen example, you have to give some background information:
- First impression
- Reason this example was chosen above the rest. (Detailed explanation)
- Originality explained or described in detail. This could be a descriptive explanation of the method they use to create their art or steps used in creating it.
- Explanation of how / why / ways this example of art defys normal definitions of what is considered “art”.
- Inspiration – how does this example inspire you? Are you inspired to try it, experiment with old mediums in a new way, look at an expression of art differently. (This explanation of the inspiration should be persuasive and convincing, possibly proving your example to be the most unique above any other example.)
- Your choice and responses will be evaluated by how thorough and clear you are in expressing your choice. Make a simple choice and show little effort or interest in answering the above questions, your mark will be poor, but make a good choice, take your time to find the right example of art and explain your reasons, and your mark will be much higher!
- We discussed, briefly, some of the more important questions regarding a few of the chapters we’ve recently read. I encouraged students, again, to keep their running list of examples of Jem or Scout’s growing awareness of their surroundings or the implications of things or just their mental maturity. This will be the basis of their upcoming essay, so keeping a list will make their brainstorming go much more easily!
- We read through Chapter 19 where Tom Robinson is questioned by Atticus and the prosecuting attorney. Knowing that his arm is disfigured and understanding him to be physically incapable of causing the harm that was evident on Mayella, we as readers can see clearly that he is innocent and there was no reason for him to be charged in the first place. It is taking a bit for the students in class to understand just how much race prejudiced people back at that time, so much so that they could charge someone for something they’re impossible of doing.
- Through the reading, it was also made clear how the prosecuting attorney was intimidating Tom by his constant use of the word “boy”. Again, it’s difficult for students today to understand the oppression still felt by Black people, even though they had been freed of their slavery.
- We read through Chapter 18 today, which was one of the most dramatic chapters from the novel so far. It included Mayella Ewell’s testimony and cross examination by Atticus and we, as readers, finally got more details regarding what actually happened that eventually led to Tom Robinson’s arrest. It seemed pretty clear, though what we read though, that Mayella is a confused person and her testimony seemed somewhat shakey. (Ie: Answering that she didn’t remember Tom hitting her and then realizing her mistake and boldly correcting herself saying he did, he did!)
- The chapter was actually so intense when the bell rang to end class that I asked the students if they’d just like to read through to finish the chapter and they did, all but one. It was better to keep that heightened tension built up through the class and finish it off, rather than trying to experience it the same way at the beginning of next class!
- Remember, this novel is based on a real situation that occured where white women accused a black man of a similar deed. The man was found guilty, but on acquittal, it became more and more clear that the women were lying. The events of Chapter 18 give strong evidence that Harper Lee wrote the book in response to the unfortunate events that happened in her home area.
- We had only a few paragraphs to complete from Chapter 15 and then discussed the significance of that chapter for the novel. Scout runs through the mob shadowed in darkness, not knowing they were strangers to her, but after realizing she doesn’t recognize anyone she panicks. She picks out one face she knows, though, and that is of Mr. Cunningham, her friend’s father and the man Atticus had recently helped with legal affairs. Mr. Cunningham originally ignores Scout as she tries to make conversation with him, making Scout uncomfortable. The interesting thing here is that Scout doesn’t suddenly become uncomfortable because it dawns on her the danger in the situation, with angry men surrounding her father wanting Tom Robinson. Instead, her awareness only comes from the fact that everyone is staring at her and no one is responding – it’s the silence in the conversation that makes her uncomfortable and this is clearly not why the rest of the people present are tense.
- We pointed out and discussed, as well, why Jem disobeyed his father’s direct command – to take the children home. Jem didn’t verbally defy his father but stood firm in his spot and refused to move. From our discussion, we believe this had an impact on the events turning out the way they did as well.
- We also looked at some pictures of people in mobs – there are different types. Some are just in the crowd and look no different than they would on their own on the street. These others, though, have their clothing fashioned just so to cover their faces, necks, any distinguishable features. Some even look like they’ve dressed specifically for the occasion, like they planned to hide their face giving the impression of some pre-meditation on their part. There’s a different between people who are in a crowd and an event occurs that they join in on without having previously planned it, verses those who plan their actions and go out looking to cause problems.
- Looking at these pictures, though, we considered what their response would be in the moment if someone addressed them by name, whether it would slow them down or they would have to be more responsible with their actions, understanding there were possible consequences. That’s the important thing to understand about this event in Chapter 16 – that the men were there as a crowd and not concerned with their own individual responsibility. When Scout forced one man to recognize he was still an individual, that man realized he was there and about to do something he shouldn’t, causing him to call it off and convince the others to retreat as well.
- We also talked about the symbolism of the lightbulb Atticus takes to the jail house. Atticus represents the light that would not have been there otherwise. Had he not been there, the men would not have seen the error of their ways and carried out some dangerous things. With Atticus there, and Scout later as well, to shed some “light” (both figurative and literal) on their intentions, they fell back and changed their minds. Atticus represents the “light” to more than just these people, but also to people in his community who disagree with a Black man having a trial against a white person’s word.
- We discussed later in Chapter 16 the social environment the author was targetting her novel to. She included parts of the novel that were meant to be directly spoke to the reader, not just between characters in the fictional story. The dialogue between Jem, Scout, and Dill regarding the significance of having “one drop of Negro blood” in them is meant to be a sharp criticism to Harper Lee’s current society, one that hadn’t yet given up on the idea that colour meant so much. For these students, who have only grown up in a society where legal protections ensured people were treated equally despite race, it’s difficult for them to understand a time when people were so clearly segregated or discriminated against. For the author, though, it was a brave thing to address an issue that had been slowly changing but had firm roots in her country’s tradition.
- Students were reminded at the beginning of class that they should have a sheet somewhere in their binder where they are collecting information in expectation of their essay assignment. We reviewed again what the essay topic is about and mentioned a few examples of possible supportive events.
- Then, we got right into reading. We finished just near the end of Chapter 15, but stopped before the end to really focus on the significance of Scout in that particular scene and discussed, once again, why the story told from her young point of view is so important. We’ll cover it again tomorrow before we discuss the questions and significance of those chapters.
- Students were given some marked assignments back along with their report card as it will appear on Monday.
- We discussed the differences they anticipate in the second Part of the novel. Scout and Jem were quite young and innocent in the first part of the book, but with the trial about to begin they are bound to become disturbed.
- We read through Chapter 12 together and talked about the new understandings Scout gained of her close friend, Calpurnia. Students were asked to read Chapter 13 on their own, though, and have it completed for tomorrow.
- Students wrote a quiz today based on what they’ve studied so far in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. This quiz mark will be included in their report cards due next week, so several students were very motivated to be prepared. We talked about the upcoming quiz last week so they had a fair amount of warning!
- We’ll continued reading tomorrow.