Parenting Essays On To Kill A Mockingbird

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Relationships Between Parents And Children In “To Kill A Mockingbird” - With A Free Essay Review




PROMPT: How does Harper Lee present the relationships between the parents and children in “To kill a Mockingbird”?

Harper Lee presents the relationship between the parents and children in a way which helps portray the three main themes of the book; courage, justice and prejudice. The family relationships in the book depict the change in thought of the children in comparison with the adults. This shows the change in thought for a new generation and exclusion of prejudice. This novel may have been inspired by the black rights movement. The novel focuses on Scout’s narrative with different people and different communities. These ideas what ideas are reproduced realistically because it shows the change of the main characters perspective and change in morality over 3 years.

Harper Lee describes the settings in detail before she introduces the characters which are associated with them. This what? is demonstrated with the character of Boo Radley. The phrase ‘rain rotten shingles drooped over the eaves of the veranda’ enforces the theme of prejudice because it allows the reader to judge Boo Radley based on the environment he lives in. Furthermore, the phrase reinforces the idea of a ‘malevolent phantom’ because it is described in a morbid manner. The alliteration which? contributes to the crucial atmosphere which allows the tension to build.

Boo’s relationship with his father, Nathan Radley, may symbolise the state of their house. This is because Nathan keeps Boo as a recluse for over 25 years. This is suggested when Nathan Radley cemented ‘the knothole’. This shows an awful relationship because it shows Boo being deprived from the community. On the other hand it may show how Nathan is protecting Boo from the racial discrimination and prejudice which the community of Maycomb conduct.

However, Atticus’ parenting style differs from Nathan Radley's because Atticus uses Maycomb as an example to show the racial discrimination and prejudice which helps Scout absorb Atticus’ moral teachings. Scout applies the concept that ‘You never really understand a person until you consider Things from his point of view it’ throughout the novel. Scout uses this teaching and states that Mayella is ‘the loneliest person in the world’. This shows that Scout uses empathy and does not prejudge even if the accusations are false. This juxtaposes with the adults in the community of Maycomb as it shows Scout having different perspectives.

Atticus’ guidance differs from the parenting style of Bob Ewell. Scout describes Burris Ewell as ‘filthiest human’, she has seen. The physical state of Burris Ewell symbolises Bob Ewell’s behaviour and his interaction with his family. Also it sympathises the predicament that the children have to face. Furthermore, the physicality of the character also reflects upon Bob Ewell’s morality in retrospect for charging Tom Robinson of raping his daughter, by stating ‘I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella’. This shows Bob Ewell opposing the theme courage which the reader may metaphorically interpret as the hunter killing the mockingbird.

Calpurnia is portrayed as a good mother figure to Scout. This is because she teaches Scout moral lesson by stating ‘on their ways like you were so high and mighty’ when Scout shouted at Walter Cunningham for using too much syrup. This is an important lesson for Scout as it teaches her equality and not to pre judge before she knows both sides. The theme of prejudice could be applied to Mayella. This is because she was forced to stay at home and look after the children from a very young age. Harper Lee describes Mayella Ewell as ‘fragile looking’ which shows that the writer wants the reader to sympathise. Furthermore, she can metaphorically be seen as a mockingbird as she had been beaten up by her father for having relationships with a man with a different race.

In addition, Mayella Ewell is also presented as a mother figure in the Ewell house hold, even though she was forced. This is due to Bob Ewell not taking responsibility for the children. The reader knows this when Bob Ewell states ‘there was went off in the swamp for days and came home sick’. The lack of responsibility shows Mayella the eldest taking care of her younger siblings. Burris Ewell’s physical nature may reflect upon his father but his behaviour when communicating with Miss Caroline. The narrative of scout reveals Burris Ewell is ‘a born gentleman’ reflects upon the nurture that Mayella has provided for him. This can be distinguished as maturity due to Mayella taking responsibility for her siblings.

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ESSAY REVIEW

You are being asked to discuss how Lee "presents the relationships between the parents and children," which is a peculiar and perhaps poorly worded question, but one in any case that forces you to think about relationships, not characters as such. So one thing you can do to improve your essay is sharpen its focus on the question of child-parent relationships, and perhaps delete everything (which in this essay would be quite a lot) that doesn't pertain closely to those relationships or their impact in the imagined world of the novel.

If we ignore your first sentence, which is a bit oblique and makes a claim not clearly developed or justified later in the essay, then as an essay about the way in which Lee presents relationships, this essay starts with the sentence "Boo's relationship with his father ... may symbolise the state of their house." Here you’re arguing that one parent-child relationship in the novel is symbolic (or "may" be symbolic). You begin to justify that claim by saying "this is because Nathan keeps Boo as a recluse for over 25 years." I don't fully understand that sentence because I am not sure what "this" means? Perhaps you mean "this symbolism" or "this possibility" (as in, "this possibility of the relationship being symbolic"). Whatever you mean, you should specify it. You should do the same in the next sentence ("This [this what?] is suggested ...") and in the one following it ("This [this what?] shows ..."). In fact, you should do it every time you use the word "this," but you should also probably use that word, or at least the phrase "this is because," infrequently.

If you specify what pronouns refer to, then your writing will be clearer, but it still won't be clear enough. You end up saying the relationship may be "awful" or it may not be awful (if Nathan is protecting Boo). It's okay to be unsure, which is different from being unclear, and what's not clear is what either interpretation of the relationship, or what anything else you have said in this paragraph, has to do with your initial point about the relationship possibly symbolizing the state of the house. You have many ideas about the novel, but generally you make it very difficult for your reader to understand exactly what you are saying and what you are arguing.

Now the second sentence of your essay makes a claim about the novel's purpose in presenting parent-child relationships. I think it's not really a problem to raise that topic in an essay like this, but again your point is not entirely clear. You seem to be saying that Lee uses these relationships to indicate how children can differ from their parents. That's an interesting idea but is not developed in your essay. In fact, you don't refer to the idea explicitly again. You do, however, make apparently contradictory claims (about Scout learning from her parents). That's not necessarily a devastating problem for your essay, since there's more than one relationship in the novel, and they are treated differently as you know. But your opening paragraph should more accurately reflect your interpretation of the significance of the relationships in the novel than it currently does. I think you ought to begin your revision by trying to articulate a clear but complex argument and the nature and effects of relationships in the novel, and think of the rest of the essay as an attempt to prove the merits of that argument.

Best, EJ.

Submitted by: ereel@hotmail.co.uk

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Editor's Note: This story was originally published on 14 June 2014. We are reposting it as a tribute to Harper Lee, who died 19 February at age 89.

The novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a staple of American classrooms because of its inspiring and elegantly written lessons about justice, equality and civic duty. But long before your child brings this classic home, it should join the books on your bedside table because, at its core, To Kill a Mockingbird is a parenting manual punctuated by moments of courtroom drama.

Atticus Finch, small town lawyer and widower, is arguably fiction’s greatest father. Atticus parents his ten-year-old son Jem and his younger sister, Scout (6), with a calm and approachable demeanour. For a man in the 1930s American South, he is a progressive. He’s against spanking, never yells, and gives his children truthful answers to difficult questions. Most importantly, for his parenting philosophy and the plot of the novel, Atticus models the behaviour he wants to see in his children.

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There are many books on parenting these days, and as a father of two I have read enough to know that few are great, most are mediocre and some are plain awful. These parenting guides are based on the writer’s personal experiences or the latest research, but none look to literature  as a source of parental wisdom. Harper Lee’s classic tale weaves five valuable lessons into a gripping narrative, making them both palatable and incredibly enjoyable.  

Lesson 1: Live your values

Atticus lives by a code: let your conscience be your guide. That’s why he takes on the case at the heart of the story, the defense of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Scout tells Atticus that most people in the town think it’s wrong to defend the accused man. But Atticus explains that “they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions. But before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” If he didn’t take the case, Atticus tells Scout, “I could never ask you to mind me again.”

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Lesson 2: Listen to both sides of every story

Unsurprisingly for a lawyer, Atticus tries to look at any given situation from both sides. When Scout gets in trouble on her first day at school for already knowing how to read (thanks to Atticus), he suggest Scout look at it from the teacher’s point of view and how it could be disruptive to her lessons.

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In a more serious moment, when Atticus is threatened by the father of the novel’s alleged rape victim, Bob Ewell, he doesn’t react, showing a degree of emotional resilience few of us could summon. Atticus later tells an outraged Jem, “See if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does… He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children.”

My daughter can be angry at her teacher, her sister, a friend, my wife or me, sometimes many times a day. When she and I pause to discuss how the other person fells, as Atticus increasingly inspires me to do, we’re not only solving the problem, we are developing more empathy.

Lesson 3: Keep calm in a crisis

Perhaps most enviable in Atticus’s parenting (and hardest to achieve in reality) is the quality that the adult Scout describes as an “infinite capacity for calming turbulent seas”. There is almost nothing that ruffles Atticus’s feathers.

When Bob Ewell curses at him, threatens his life and spits in his face, Atticus’ only reaction is “I wish Bob Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco.” A rabid dog lumbers down their street and Atticus calmly but efficiently shoots it dead (to his children’s amazement as he has never boasted about his marksmanship). Repeatedly in the novel Atticus reassures the children in such difficult moments that “it’s not time to worry”. And yet, an appropriate time to panic never seems to arrive.

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Lesson 4: Have faith in your children

One of the most difficult dances of parenting is knowing when to give your children the right answers and when to trust their own ability to find them. Jem and Scout are at a good age to test these waters and Atticus seeks out opportunities for them to exercise their own judgment. He also trusts them with the truth. “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake,” Atticus tells his brother. “Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults.” When Scout asks him what “rape” means, Atticus gives her a dry but accurate legal definition and she is satisfied.

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Lesson 5: You don’t have to be tough to be brave

Atticus shows this in the smallest of ways, such as with the family’s ornery old neighbour, Mrs Dubose,who makes a habit of taunting Jem and Scout when they walk by her house. “Just hold your head high and be a gentleman,” Atticus advises Jem. “Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to let her make you mad.” True to form, Atticus disarms Mrs Dubose with smiles and compliments, leading Scout to marvel, “it was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”

For me, Atticus Finch is that person. And though he is fictional, Harper Lee has acknowledged he was based on her own father, AC Lee. Outside the old courthouse in Monroeville, Alabama, where AC Lee practiced law, a plaque is inscribed to “Atticus Finch, a lawyer-hero who possesses the knowledge and experience of a man, strengthened by untainted insight of a child.”

And there, at that intersection of those qualities is the simple, if difficult, beauty of the parenting philosophy of father-hero Atticus Finch: to bring the innocent goodwill of youth into the treacherous terrain of adulthood, to raise virtuous, courageous, resilient, fair and empowered children. Hopefully, they, in turn, will teach these virtues to their children too.

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Wise Up is a thinking person’s life hacking column in which we examine behaviour modification, self-help, found wisdom and applied philosophy. For more stories, go to BBC Capital and don’t miss another Wise Up column by subscribing here.

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