Steph S.

asked • 07/19/13

Why is To Kill a Mockingbird so influential?

It seems like year after year I see the same books at the top of every student's reading list. What's the big deal with TKAM and why does every teacher insist we read this? Is it that influential to American culture? 

Michelle C.

This book teaches many valuable lessons about family, friendship, forgiveness, standing up for what is right -- even if the system is against you, and about the history of the American South, including issues with the Jim Crow Laws and race relations/segregation.  This is a time, much like the Holocaust in Europe, that we should never forget and never repeat.  This story is based on real life events in the life of Harper Lee, the author.  Her father defended several innocent African American men during the infamous "Scottsboro Trials."  Feel free to Google this to get more information.  Basically, there were a group of teens/young men accused of raping two young women who were Caucasian and possibly also prostitutes.  The men were innocent.  But, because of a broken and unfair system at the time and the color of their skin, they were initially thrown in jail and wrongfully declared guilty, based only on the lying testimony of the two white women who accused them.  It wasn't until the 1970s that the verdict was turned over, with all men involved declared innocent. 


Not only does this book accurately convey the atmosphere of the time and many cultural attributes of the American South at the time, but also shows how important it is that we do not give into the group mind when people are doing things that hurt innocent people.  It teaches us to never judge a book by its cover and to extend compassion and love to our neighbors, maintaining peace and respect in our dealings with all people.


I have covered this book with grades 8-9.  Most students, upon learning the historical background of the story, become highly emotional about it, for good reason.  It is truly a classic that has so much to teach people of all ages.  The film, starring Gregory Peck, is also fantastic and recounts most of the same story as the book does.  I highly recommend both the book and the film!



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