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8th Grade

Themes in To Kill a Mockingbird

This spring, eighth graders read Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. When finished, they examined the ideas of love, prejudice, and a hypocrisy using the novel. There are a few of those compositions.

Emma Rose Judd

Hypocrisy means “claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform”. In the book To Kill A Mockingbird, this could also be called dramatic irony. To Kill A Mockingbird is set in the time period of the great depression. This is also a time of inequality among blacks and whites. Many people complain about being treated differently but are guilty of treating others differently. Hypocrisy is demonstrated by Mrs. Gates in the classroom while talking about Hitler and how he treated Jews.

Mrs. Gates is talking to a student about how Hitler is treating Jews so unfairly. What she should really be worried about is how whites are treating blacks. This is also around the time of Tom Robinson's trial. In this trial is a fight between a non reliable white family and an honorable black. While what Hitler did is unspeakably terrible, Mrs. Gates should be worried about the Jews and inequality for blacks. Harper Lee's message about hypocrisy is, as much as we hate hearing about hypocrisy, it happens. Most of us are even guilty of it ourselves. Lastly, one may not even realize they are being hypocritical.

In conclusion, hypocrisy plays a big role of To Kill A mockingbird. Weather it is in the classroom, internally, or even in the courtroom.  We all struggle with being both victims and assailants of hypocrisy. While wrestling with such powerful yet important topics such as inequality and Hitler, hypocrisy may come along intentionally or unintentionally. In the end, hypocrisy is all around us no matter what things are done to stop it.

Isabel Paris

Harper Lee shows prejudice in many ways throughout To Kill A Mockingbird. She shows it in the courtroom with Tom Robinson and the jury. She shows it in the beginning of the book when Scout, Dill, and Jem are all so interested in Boo Radley. All throughout the story Harper Lee shows prejudice in different ways, with different people, at different times, and at different places all throughout Maycomb.

Harper Lee’s prejudice in the courtroom was something very common in the time period To Kill A Mockingbird takes place in. The jury was all white men, who had very strong opinions on race. This jury had evidence right in front of them saying that Tom Robinson did not rape Mayella Ewell. Yet, this jury still found him guilty. This jury was prejudiced, meaning they were biased. They automatically thought someone that was white was right. There was no other answer to them. So, because this jury was so prejudice a innocent man went to prison and later died because he got shot 17 times.

In the beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird, you learn about Boo Radley. Dill immediately becomes obsessed with Boo Radley. Dill wants to make Boo Radley come out of his house. Scout, Dill, and Jem make a play about Boo Radley, in which he stabs his father, something the town believes he did. Scout, Dill, and Jem’s opinions on Boo Radley are completely prejudice. They base all they know off of stories, not based on reason or real experience, and they were biased. They never bothered to see Boo’s side of the story, the just saw the town’s story. In the end of To Kill A Mockingbird Boo saves Jem and Scout when Bob Ewell attacks them. Scout learns that he is just the same as the rest of us, Boo just chooses to stay inside. Scout saw the real Boo not the town’s Boo or the Boo she made plays about, she just saw Boo.

Harper Lee gives many messages to her readers, some messages are  hidden, some messages are out in the open. Harper Lee’s message about prejudice is to not judge a book by its cover, some people and some things are more than they seem. In To Kill A Mockingbird Scout learns about how she can not judge someone before she knows them. She learns this in the courtroom with jury and she learns this when she sees Boo Radley at the end of the book.

Paget Kellogg

Hypocrisy, “claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not confirm”. To commit hypocrisy, a hypocrite must be involved, so Miss Gates is therefore a hypocrite due to what she said in Scout’s current events class. What Harper Lee is teaching the readers from this moment in the book is that hypocrisy can be something that the hypocrite doesn’t even know is hypocritical because of a societal norm.

A perfect example of Miss Gates hypocrisy is during a current events class one day, Miss Gates asked if anyone knew about a current event. Cecil Jacobs brought up how Adolf Hitler had been persecuting the Jewish people in Prison and taking away their property. Then Miss Gates goes on to talk about how the United States has a democracy, and Germany has a dictatorship. After this she continues to say that, “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody.” (Lee 329) This statement proves that Miss Gates is commiting hypocrisy, but she probably doesn’t know she is. That is because persecuting African Americans has been a societal norm for the past few hundred years.

As this example shows, Miss Gates became a hypocrite without even knowing it, saying that, “the U.S doesn’t persecute”, yet she has been blinded by the fact that persecuting African Americans has been in the United States since the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. In conclusion, you can commit hypocrisy without even knowing because something can be such a societal norm.

Mekonnen Sahle-Selassie

How is To Kill A Mockingbird a love story and what is Harper Lee’s message about love?

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee describes her famous book as a love story. When most people think of love, they think of romance. But the only romance that we saw in the book was with Scout and Dill, which was not really significant. But, there are other types of love. For example, agape is a brotherly love while philia is love between friends. Romance is not the only variety of love, so what is the type of love Harper Lee is referring to in her book?

You can tell how much Atticus cares for his kids. When an angry mob after Tom Robinson confronted him, he was very calm. But when his children entered the scene, he was very scared that something was going to happen to them. This specific scene in To Kill A Mockingbird showed the audience how much Atticus cares for his children, and how much he worries about them. This kind of love is called storge, the love between family members. Above all, To Kill A Mockingbird is a story about a man's love for his children, and his attempt to pass the philosophy of love and understanding on to his children. The love that Harper Lee is talking about in To Kill A Mockingbird, is the love shared between a parent, and their child.

Katherine Booth

Every person relies on love from someone else and even more basic than that, loving themselves. Without love, the world would be a lonely place. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout is learning who she should love. Maycomb County is the setting of the book, and the area is divided by racism and rumors. There is Ms. Dubose, who has a reputation for picking on everything and anything. Tom Robinson is African American, and who would take a black person's word over a white persons? As Scout grows up through the story, she sees that everyone in the small town has more layers and dimensions.

Loving your neighbors has been said for thousands of years. It is written in the Bible and practiced everyday. Ms. Dubose is always thought of by the children as the evil witch who was out to get them. The way she tortures them by having them read to her. She finds any way to correct behavior and share her opinions. But simply reading to Ms. Dubose could mean a lifestyle change for her. Did the kids realize they were helping her overcome a drug addiction and finish her story strong? No, they thought they were being punished for destructing her property. While it may have seemed like labarous work, they were helping her make a huge change. While Jem will never understand how important he was to her story, she will always be grateful for the way he benefitted to her recovery. When Scout learned the truth about reading to Ms. Dubose, she dusted off the important lesson, loving her neighbors.

Understanding everyone's story and putting appearances aside is something Scout learned early on in life. While some people viewed Arthur Radley as an outrageous human who should be locked up, Scout was always intrigued by his story. When Tom Robinson was found guilty and no one saw what a big mistake they made, Jem screamed and shouted and went into denial. Even though nobody saw beneath the surface of Boo and Tom, the kids knew they were human too. Scout realizes at the end of the story, and gives Boo a chance, asking him if she could walk him home. She takes his arm and lets his lead her, so he looks like he is protecting her in true gentleman fashion. She sees beneath Boos blurry reputation, and defies the social norm. She puts aside the past to create a new picture and a new future.

Harper Lee means to respect and share warmth with everyone. Harper Lee does not mean to share romantic love with everyone. Searching beneath the stereotypes and the rumors, finding a person's true colors is love. Seeing all the colors rather than just blue and orange and forgetting about the others is love. Scout walking her misunderstood neighbor home in the dead of night is love.

Ella Thomas

Harper Lee always considered her novel “a simple love story.” To Kill a Mockingbird, is a love story, but not one that someone might expect. The novel shows the love between a father and his children, and the town of Maycomb and the people in it. Harper Lee gives readers a message through love. That message is, love can come in many forms.

Atticus, the father of Scout and Jem, loves his kids. He doesn’t want anything to happen to them. So when he takes on a case defending an African American he starts to worry. Atticus worries that the town will do things to the kids. The town is like other towns in the south at that time. People in the town think a certain way towards African Americans. They do not all like them. Those people don’t include Atticus and his kids. Scout needs to learn something that Jem knows but can’t tell her. Atticus and Jem know that Scout needs to learn certain things from the outside world. They can’t just tell her these things. Scout needs to experience many things for herself before she can make assumptions about people. These people include everybody, especially people in Maycomb. Atticus loves his kids so much that he lets them experience things and learn things on their own. He doesn’t just tell them what to think or believe.

The town of Maycomb loves the people in it. The town loves Boo Radley. Yes, the people in town like to gossip about them, but the town still loves them. Why do you like Boo never got in trouble for anything he did. Maycomb loves him too much.

The message given by Harper Lee helps readers understand love. Love can come in many, many different forms. Atticus’s love for his kids to the towns love for Boo Radley.  The love for these characters is shown by how they are portrayed in the story.

Billy Hunter

Hypocrisy occurs when someone or something claims to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not confirm. Such as when an adult tells a child not to eat any potato chips, but then immediately afterwards eats the whole family sized bag. In short someone who doesn’t do what they preach. In To Kill A Mockingbird many people in Maycomb County, from Atticus Finch to Bob Ewell, engage in many hypocrisies. Most of the time Maycomb doesn’t realize is being a hypocrite. Harper Lee vividly shows these unbearable contradictions through the story. Each time it seems the people only realize their error after the incident has long happened, if they ever realize it. Mrs. Lee leaves an unnerving message that every human being needs to be aware of each action they take because hypocrisy creeps into society like weeds in a pond.

Late in the book, one of the most uncomfortable scenes in the book is when the teacher, Mrs. Gates, rightfully cries in class about how the Jews are being treated in Nazi Germany, then afterwards saying: “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced.” This scene is extremely upsetting. While Mrs. Gates being crying over the Jews’ situation is morally correct the hypocrisy in her statement makes the reader want to vomit blood. The hypocrisy is how Mrs. Gates criticizes Germany for mistreating Jews by treating them like 2nd hand citizens when she views black people as below her place because she is white! While Mrs. Gates is not a very important character in the story, this scene shows what the average person in the South thinks at this time.

Throughout the book, Harper Lee shows many other cases of hypocrisy. Some of them hidden between the lines, others glaringly easy to spot. When the Cunninghams are proud enough to never accept anything they can’t pay off, but are willing to beat up their neighbor for defending a black man. To when Atticus calls Mrs. Dubose the bravest woman he knew even after she cusses him out in front of his children, and punishes Jem for standing up to her.  Each hypocrisy in the story combine to make one undeniable point: Hypocrisies always creep in to humanity’s actions. Most of the time its bragging about or defending its ego. When the jury convict Tom Robinson because they can’t ever have a white person ‘lose’ to a black person, even if it means sentencing the victim to death. Other times its when society wants to protect the naive. When Atticus tells Jem and Scout to stop bothering Boo Radley while he lets Stephanie Crawford talk gossip about him without qualm. But every type of hypocrisy always goes unnoticed at first. Harper Lee shows the reader this threat when the characters remain oblivious even in the most glaring of hypocrisies.
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