Study Help Essay Questions


1. Why does Atticus choose not to reveal to his children that Judge Taylor appointed him to Tom's case? How does his decision affect Scout's perception of her father?

2. Do you think that the adult Jean Louise telling the story through Scout's eyes may have added any embellishments to the story? Think of an event from your own life that occurred at least five years ago. Do you see the event differently now? How do memory and education affect your perception of the event?

3. Read Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. How are the stories alike? How are they different? Compare Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson with Nels Gudmundsson and Kabuo Miyamoto. Compare Scout's and Hatsue's understanding of their place in their communities.

4. If Scout and Jem's mother were still alive, how might the following people be different: Atticus, Scout, Jem, Calpurnia, and Aunt Alexandra?

5. Would Heck Tate have filed charges against Tom Robinson so quickly if Tom were white? Why or why not? Would Sheriff Tate have been so unwilling to file charges against Boo Radley if Boo was black? Why or why not?

6. Read the play To Kill a Mockingbird, by Christopher Sergel. What elements in the story are different? What limitations does the book have that the stage doesn't? What limitations does the stage have that the book doesn't? Does Sergel tell the same story that Harper Lee does? What events does Sergel highlight as important? Why do you think he made those choices? Do you agree with his choices?

7. Compare and contrast the relationship between Jem and Scout with the relationship between Atticus and Aunt Alexandra.

8. Based on what you know about Scout, describe the adult Jean Louise Finch.

9. Suppose that Mayella had admitted that she was lying when she testified against Tom. What would have happened to her? What would've happened to Tom? How would Scout, Jem, and Dill perceive the situation differently? Would the town have been willing to accept Tom's innocence? Why or why not?

10. What significance do the items that Boo leaves for the children have? What do they tell you about Boo? Why does his brother object so strongly to his leaving items for the children?

11. Read Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms. Capote based the character of Idabel on Harper Lee, his childhood friend, just as she based the character of Dill on him. Compare Idabel and Scout. Do the two characterizations give you any insight to Harper Lee? How are the characters different from each other? Compare Joel and Idabel's relationship to Dill and Scout's. What role does friendship play in each of these stories? Compare and contrast the setting in the two stories.

12. Harper Lee uses language and grammar that mirrors how the characters actually speak. Is this technique helpful in understanding the characters? Is it distracting? Could Lee have told the same story with the same impact if she'd used proper grammar throughout?

13. Read Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Compare the lessons Scout learns with those that Huck learns. How is Jim like or unlike Tom Robinson? To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn are both novels that have undergone many censorship attempts, especially in schools and public libraries. Why do you think people would want to censor these stories? Is censorship ever appropriate? Why or why not?

14. Compare the way Miss Caroline treats Scout on her first day of school with the way the town treats Mayella Ewell.

15. What, if any, prejudices do African Americans face in today's world? Have the issues that Lee discusses in To Kill a Mockingbird been resolved or are they ongoing? What forms of prejudice can you identify in your own community? Have you ever been the victim of prejudice? Did the situation end justly? Explain.

16. Why does Boo Radley stay inside all the time?