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Reading Harper Lee: Understanding To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman
Pagevii(8 of 193)
Introduction To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most read and beloved novels in the English language. Many studies by such groups as Library of Congress have found that readers believe it to be second only to the Bible in its influence. The novel is a literary classic that follows the maturation and growing awareness of young children who are being reared in the Jim Crow South by their widowed father, who seems to be an ideal parent, with the assistance of a wise and loving African American caregiver. Over the course of the book, the children have conflicts in school and in the larger community that make them feel they do not fit in. They begin to bond instead with other outsiders, such as their neighbor Boo Radley and the black people of the community. They observe their father’s heroism in defending a black man wrongly accused of rape. Go Set a Watchman is about a young woman’s return from a sojourn in New York City to the South in the 1950s, where, again from the position of an outsider, she is shocked by the attitudes and behavior of those close to her. Both novels are also social and historical documents that opened the eyes of many readers (even Southerners) to the racial injustices of the South in the 1930s and the 1950s. In addition, both novels throw light on cultural and social matters still relevant today. Students will find this reference book helpful as they study Harper Lee’s novels in the classroom. The book provides information about Harper Lee’s life and her experiences growing up in Alabama in the 1930s. It is organized around issues that stand out in the books: race, women’s status, class, the South, the figure of the hero, and censorship. It concludes with a chapter on controversies raised by the novels that reso- nate today.