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GCSE English Literature Student Guide to Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

shaggy | Monday October 14, 2013

Categories: KS4, AQA GCSE, AQA GCSE Pre-2015 Resources, AQA English Literature, Unit 1 Exploring Modern Texts, EDEXCEL GCSE, Edexcel GCSE Pre-2015 Resources, Edexcel English Literature, Unit 1 Understanding Prose, OCR GCSE, OCR GCSE Pre-2015 Resources, OCR GCSE English Literature, Unit A663, WJEC Eduqas GCSE, WJEC GCSE Pre-2015 Resources, WJEC GCSE English Literature, Unit 1 Prose and Poetry , Hot Entries, Prose, Analysing Prose, To Kill A Mockingbird, Writing, Analytical Writing, Literary Analysis, Prose Analysis

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“Top grade thinking…?


As a Bildungsroman, or ‘coming of age’ story, the novel emphasises learning and change. Does Scout’s learning lead to her transformation? What does she learn that she doesn’t mention? Why is education presented as being important in the novel - both as a part of the novel’s plot and as one of its major themes? What does Lee suggest education can change? And what can it not change?

The School is presented as failing its students: the teachers are outsiders who do not understand the children’s various needs. The School is witness to the stratification of a white society; notably black, and poor children are absent; they are presumably being taught elsewhere or not at all. In the real-world context of the novel, literacy rates in segregated black schools had reached 77% by the 1930s and most white people could read; by the 1950s literacy rates were falling which was perhaps because education was valued differently and that new methods were not producing improvement. This is not the picture that Harper Lee presents of the black community.

Miss Fisher is presented as incompetent. The teachers are shown as hypocrites: Miss Gates rejects Hitler in school but Scout hears her racism after the trial. Lessons are learnt in the community: at church and from parents. Within the fictional community presented, the obvious neglect and abuse of poor children is ignored or misunderstood in school and suggest the level of disdain that the novel has for the formal education of Maycomb’s children.

The Ewell children truant, having been brought up presumably to view school and its education as irrelevant; and Walter Cunningham’s desperate poverty is misunderstood. A single model of learning is applied to all children and most reject it. Scout is upset because her intellect does not match this standard model: it exceeds it. Perhaps we are not all equal but all different and...

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