Running Head: KILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 1A Sin Greater than Killing a MockingbirdEthan OphirWest Career and Technical AcademyKILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 2A Sin Greater than Killing a Mockingbird “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (Lee, p. 103) These are the powerful words uttered by Atticus Finch that helped carve the path in To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel by Harper Lee. This is a novel that takes place in the 1930s, and it features the coming-of-age story of Scout Finch.
Throughout the novel, she faces several challenges for the time period including navigating Maycomb, her hometown. She also must face the trial of Tom Robinson, an African American man, that her father, Atticus Finch, is defending. As the story moves on, her brother, Jem Finch, begins to play an important role as they go on their longest journey together. Although this novel has been made into a movie, the novel remains as the best option for any potential person looking to understand To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The novel addressed a more complex setting and characterization of Atticus as well as included more details for the dual plots and the theme of losing innocence. It would be a large mistake to watch the movie instead of reading the novel.
One major way where the novel is superior to the movie is the dual plots. At the center plot of the storyline, there are two plots. One plot follows the story of Arthur “Boo” Radley, and the other plot follows the trial of Tom Robinson, an African American man that is being charged with raping a white woman. The first of these two plots to be introduced was the plot regarding Arthur Radley.
In the novel, the background of Arthur Radley was introduced within the first chapter by pointing out the differences of the Radley family. ” The Radleys, welcome anywhere in town, kept to themselves, a predilection unforgivable in Maycomb. They did not go to church, Maycomb’s principal recreation, but worshiped at home; Mrs.
Radley seldom if ever crossed the street for a KILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 3mid-morning coffee break with her neighbors, and certainly never joined a missionary circle.” (Lee, p. 10) Through the process of having the narrator isolate one family, the reader is able to understand that they will play an integral role in the plot. The details of the Radley family went on to explain that Arthur Radley was a childhood delinquent that was locked up due to one crazy night. Although the movie states that he was locked up for stabbing his father, it did not include the details of his childhood. These details have an integral role in the entire plot of Arthur Radley, for they showcase several examples of why Arthur Radley is feared among the people of Maycomb. The movie also used the children, Scout and Jem, to intersect the two plots.
As they were trying to find Arthur Radley, they accidentally listened to the arraignment of Tom Robinson. This event in the movie appeared to be extremely confusing, for nothing is previously known about Tom Robinson. In the novel, Atticus makes several references to the case before it happens, but these never interfere with the plot of Arthur Radley. This action made by the movie was unnecessary, and it distorted the view from the plot involving Arthur Radley. The novel also did a better job of the dual plots by including the section when the people of the town left food on the back porch. The text described,” The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs.
Atticus grinned when he found a jar of pickled pigs’ knuckles.” (Lee, p. 244) The author felt that this scene was important to include because it highlighted the support that Atticus was receiving from the people of the town. When the people of the town rewarded Atticus despite Tom being found guilty, it ensured in the reader’s mind that Tom was probably innocent. The event helps readers understand that Tom Robinson is being KILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 4supported, and it fills the reader with hope that an appeal will go well. The novel did a better job of describing the dual plots of To Kill a Mockingbird. The dual plots of the novel were better in the novel which helps exemplify ways that the novel described the setting better. With this in mind, I believe that the Radley house is described in more detail throughout the novel.
“The Maycomb school grounds adjoined the back of the Radley lot; from the Radley chickenyard tall pecan trees shook their fruit into the schoolyard, but the nuts lay untouched by the children: Radley pecans would kill you. A baseball hit into the Radley yard was a lost ball and no questions asked.” (Lee, p.
9-10) Scout Finch is the narrator in the novel, so this house is viewed through the unknowing eyes of a child. She has grown up to this point thinking that the Radley family is evil, so she describes it with a negative connotation. Since the novel is a bildungsroman, or coming of age story, it is better to have the point of view through the eyes of the child growing up as compared to an outside view. The movie also added a swing to the Radley house, and this made it seem friendlier and less threatening. The town of Maycomb was also pictured as a spread out rural town throughout the novel, yet the movie depicts the town as small and close together. In one particular scene, the children go to town without asking anyone or having supervision. Since Maycomb was smaller in the movie, it was easier for the children to leave home and go to town. This aspect is not positive because it took away the need for Calpurnia, for she was the person to supervise the children in the novel.
By taking away Calpurnia, part of the racial inequality theme is not established, and this has a negative impact on the overall tone and mood of each literary piece. The setting also played an important role in the novel as the aspect of time. The novel is pictured as taking place over the span of several years whereas the KILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 5movie seems to take place in several months. “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” (Lee, p. 3) This demonstrates how the novel takes place over the course of about four years, and this has helped to showcase that it is a coming-of-age story. For the sake of saving time, the movie producers condensed the timeline, and the result was losing key plot points and messages. Timing in this specific story is important because it allows the storyline to flow seamlessly.
The novel was able to have a good timeline, yet the movie felt rushed. The setting of the story was superlative in the novel. While the setting of the story was slightly better in the novel, the characterization of Atticus in the movie cannot compare to the characterization of Atticus in the novel. A way that the novel developed the complex characterization of Atticus was by having him keep secrets from the children. The largest secret he kept from the children was his ability to shoot a gun. “With movements so swift they seemed simultaneous, Atticus’s hand yanked a ball-tipped lever as he brought the gun to his shoulder.
The rifle cracked. Tim Johnson leaped, flopped over and crumpled on the sidewalk in a brown-and-white heap. He didn’t know what hit him.” (Lee, p. 110) In the novel, Atticus kept this secret from the children because he felt that he had an unfair advantage over other living beings. By living his life this way, he was trying to teach his kids to respect all forms of life. He kept this secret to defend the reasoning for not giving his children guns, yet in the movie, he freely stated that he had a gun in his childhood.
This was confusing because it took away a complex level of character in Atticus, and it did not support his reasoning for not giving the children guns. The movie was also different because Atticus did not take off his jacket during his closing remarks. “Atticus did something I never saw him do before or since, in public or in private: KILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 6he unbuttoned his vest, unbuttoned his collar, loosened his tie, and took off his coat. He never loosened a scrap of his clothing until he undressed at bedtime.” (Lee, p. 230) With this in mind, I think that the author chose to do this because it allowed Atticus to go on the level of the people on the jury.
When he did this, he started talking with less detachment and in a familiar tone, and the children compared this to him talking to anyone on the corner. This allowed him to showcase the emotional side of his argument, and he was able to go on the level of the jury to give his emotional plea. In the movie, Atticus talks with more definition during his closing remarks, and this accomplishes the opposite of his goal.
He was characterized in the novel to walk in the shoes of others, so he did this in the novel. He didn’t do this in the movie, so the novel characterized his people skills in a more efficient manner. The novel characterized Atticus in a great way, but the movie did one thing that was as good as the novel. To show how Tom Robinson can’t use one arm, the movie had Atticus throw a glass at him. This was a wise decision because it was able to show the wits that Atticus had, and it allowed the watcher to notice Tom’s disability.
In the novel, Atticus has Tom stand up, and it becomes obvious to the people of the courtroom that he has lost the use of it. While it did not show the same example, the novel was able to characterize the intelligence of Atticus by having him plan for the mob outside Tom’s cell with Mr. Underwood. This is a different example, yet I think it characterizes Atticus’s in a superior fashion. The novel characterized Atticus to a greater extent of complexity. Atticus was a complex character in the novel, yet Scout was the character that changed the most. Scout was a character that had to face many problems growing up, and this helped develop the theme of losing innocence.
One main example where Scout lost part of her innocence was KILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 7when she went to Calpurnia’s church. On the way home, Scout asked Calpurnia why she talked differently at church as compared to when she is around the Finch family. Calpurnia answered by explaining, “It’s not necessary to tell all you know. It’s not ladylike-in the second place, folks don’t to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do. It aggravates ’em.” (Lee, p. 143) The experience of visiting the church was an important event because Scout was able to realize that not all people act the same way. At the church, most people couldn’t read, but at Scout’s normal church, everyone can read.
Scout would not be able to learn from this point of view in the movie, for the scene never happened. In this way, the novel allowed Scout to expand her view more than the movie. Furthermore, the novel helped develop the theme of losing innocence by including the conversation with Dolphus Raymond. Dolphus is a white man that loves an African American woman, so many people of the town judge him.
During the trial, he had a conversation with the children about why he acts the way he does. ” When I come to town, which is seldom, if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whiskey-that’s why he won’t change his ways.” (Lee, p.
228) In the novel, he explains that he told Scout this information because she is a child that would understand. This exemplifies how Scout is innocent and is slowly losing it throughout the novel. She understands that he pretends, yet she still views Dolphus as sinful. Scout is able to have part of her innocence by believing him and has lost some by viewing him as sinful. This entire scene was not included in the movie, so she was not able to grow from this scene. The movie lacked the results of this theme which would include Scout acting more mature. To include the theme of losing innocence in the movie, the movie depicted a scene where Scout watched Atticus’s anger and disbelief over Tom’s death. In the movie, she lost her KILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 8innocence by realizing that Tom unnecessarily killed himself.
She was also able to grow from this by noticing how Atticus remained calm considering the news that he was delivered. Although this showed the theme, the novel depicted it in a useful and practical manner. In the novel, Atticus delivers the news to his sister, Aunt Alexandra, and Scout during a meeting at their house. Aunt Alexandra reacted by keeping her head held high, and Scout was able to mimic these movements to get through the tough time. She learned how to be ladylike in order to get through the tragic news of Tom’s death, and this depicted losing her innocence. By excluding and changing several scenes, the novel did a superior job of demonstrating the theme of losing innocence.
The novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee was able to remain the best form of the story when the movie came out. It was able to showcase the dual plots that make this story unique as well as the setting. The novel also did a great job of characterizing Atticus Finch and demonstrating the theme of losing innocence. Atticus Finch made the famous claim that it was a sin to kill a mockingbird, but the real sin would be watching the movie instead of reading the novel.KILLING A MOCKINGBIRD 9ReferencesLee, H. (1960).
To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: LippincottPakula, A., & Mulligan R. (1962). To Kill a Mockingbird Motion Picture.
United States: Universal Studios