Essay Topics for To Kill a Mockingbird



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Essay Topics for To Kill a Mockingbird. You must have an outline, a thesis statement, and a Works Cited page. You must include quotes from the book to prove your thesis. The essay must be in MLA format, typed, double-spaced, 12 font Calibri or Times New Roman. You must have a hand-written rough draft. The novel and any other sources you use must be documented in parenthetical documentation within the paper and be included on the Works Cited page. Separate due dates will be given for the outline and thesis, the rough draft, and the Works Cited page. Some class time will be given for this assignment; however, outside work will also be required to complete this assignment in a timely and correct fashion.

Essay Topic #1: Notions of Justice and Fairness in To Kill a Mockingbird

Despite the unwavering dedication of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, the absence of evidence, and a moving courtroom speech, Tom Robinson is convicted of a crime that he did not commit. This jury ruling causes both those who advocated Robinson’s conviction and those who were convinced of his innocence to question their notions of justice and fairness. As if a false conviction was not enough, Tom is eventually killed, and the sense of justice and fairness seem to be completely violated. Write an argumentative essay in which you establish what Lee is trying to convey regarding these two concepts that are so important to civil society. Questions that you might want to consider include If justice and fairness are so elusive, how can Atticus and Scout continue to believe in them, and are justice and fairness conflicting concepts in To Kill a Mockingbird?



Essay Topic #2: The Various Forms of Discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird

The most obvious form of discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird is racism; however, there are other types of prejudice and discrimination that typify relationships among the novel’s characters. Scout, for example, is ridiculed in To Kill a Mockingbird because she is a tomboy. Boo Radley is ostracized despite the fact that hardly anyone knows him. Reverse racism is also present in the novel, as evidenced by the threats against Atticus Finch and his family as he defends Tom Robinson. Take one or more of the forms of discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird and write an analytic essay in which you explain the forms and, if applicable, compare and contrast the types of discrimination. You should argue whether the lessons about discrimination that Scout learns are applicable to all types of prejudice, or whether they apply to racism alone.



Essay Topic #3: The Moral Development of Scout and Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird

Scout and her brother Jem are both children of the morally passionate lawyer, Atticus Finch, and both are exposed to the same experiences that shape their sense of right and wrong. However, Scout and Jem come to dramatically different conclusions about good and evil and the essential nature of humankind. Write an expository essay in which you develop an understanding of how Scout and Jem arrive at such disparate concepts of the world. Be sure to consider not only the final worldview at which each arrives but also to look at the novel as a whole and identify how their belief systems develop. Include relevant quotations that demonstrate how, despite their shared experiences, Scout and Jem begin to part ways, philosophically speaking, early in the novel.



Essay Topic #4 The Role of Place in To Kill a Mockingbird

The town of Maycomb is described in great detail in To Kill a Mockingbird, so much so that the reader gets the sense that Maycomb is more than a setting; it takes on the weight and importance of a character. Write an expository or persuasive essay in which you describe Maycomb and explain its significance with respect to the events and meaning of the novel. Be sure to dig beneath the surface: it is easy to say that Maycomb is a Southern town and that certain social dynamics—such as racism—shape the characters and their circumstances, but there are also more subtle characteristics about the town that exert influence over the novel’s outcome. Finally, consider whether Maycomb is changed by the conclusion. It shapes people and events, but it is also shaped by its inhabitants and their actions.



Essay Topic #5: Character Analysis of Atticus Finch

One of the most inspiring characters in twentieth-century American literature is Atticus Finch. A morally upright lawyer, a committed and loving father, and an overall good citizen, Finch is regarded highly by most citizens with a sense of justice. Write an essay in which you analyze Atticus Finch’s character. You may wish to focus the content of your essay by selecting a single quote or passage (consider a portion of the courtroom speech, for instance) and explaining how it reflects Finch’s character strengths. Address whether Finch has any flaws and explain how he conveys his beliefs to his children and his community.



Essay Topic # 6: Discuss Courage in To Kill a Mockingbird

Courage comes in many forms: courage to stand up to a bully, courage to pick up a hitch hiker, courage to try something new, courage to speak in front of a crowd, courage to perform on stage, courage to tell the truth even if you know you will be in trouble, courage to jump off the high dive, courage to take a stand for an unpopular idea, etc. In an expository essay, explain which character you believe displayed the most amount of courage. Make sure you put lines in that prove the character’s courage, and make sure you show how the character displayed this courage throughout the book. Include your opinion as to where you think this courage originated and why this particular character used his/her courage while others did not.



Essay Topic # 7 Analyze the author’s treatment of Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird. What was the author’s objective in including this character in the novel? What point was she trying to make? Did she make her point or not?

Boo Radley is considered, by many readers, a minor character in this novel. However, for the most part, he is juxtaposed against the citizens of Maycomb, against Atticus, against the children, and against the actual town itself. In an expository/literary analysis essay, discuss the author’s treatment of Boo, discuss why she included him, discuss her objective in his inclusion in the novel, and discuss if she achieved her objective. Make sure and include how the novel would have developed and progressed without this character in the novel. Does he affect the plot progression, the climax, and the resolution?



Points to Remember

Be organized:



Introductory paragraph: follow a “broad to specific” format; include the title of the book

and author; present a clear thesis statement

  • 3 body paragraphs: this is where you convince the reader of your stance; use at least one

quote to support each paragraph

  • Conclusion: restate thesis; tie main points to thesis

Grammar and spelling will be evaluated

Use 12 pt Times New Roman font and double space, please

Write the body paragraphs in present tense

Include a creative and relevant title

Do not use the pronouns I, we, me, myself, us, you, yours, or your (unless these words are used in quotes that you are taking directly from novel)

Include a Works Cited page



Your completed essay should follow this format:

I. Introduction

Begin with a broad topic related to your thesis. Make statements with which



your reader will agree.

Move slowly and smoothly to your thesis.

Lead your reader to your clear Thesis Statement. Make sure thesis includes

the title and author of the book.

II. Body paragraph #1 (TIQA)

Topic sentence

Introduce evidence

Quote to support this (with citations)

Analysis of your example and quote (tie to your thesis)

Transitional sentence to next form of evidence (next body paragraph)



III. Body paragraph #2

Topic sentence

Introduce evidence

Quote to support this (with citations)

Analysis of your example and quote (tie to your thesis)

Transitional sentence to next form of evidence (next body paragraph)



IV. Body paragraph #3

Topic sentence

Introduce evidence

Quote to support this (with citations)

Analysis of your example and quote (tie to your thesis)

Concluding sentence



V. Conclusion

Restate thesis

Connect your main points back to your thesis by suggesting results or by tying

to the broad topic in your introduction

Solid concluding sentence that leaves reader thinking about what you said



Step 1: Write your thesis-the thesis is the outline in sentence form

A thesis is a sentence that defines the purpose of your essay. This sentence should serve as

a roadmap to your paper that outlines the points you will make.

The thesis should be included in your introduction. It is not, however, the first sentence of

your paper. Your thesis belongs at the end of your introduction paragraph. This will help the

reader to understand the points you will make in your essay.

Here are some tips on writing a strong thesis:

1. Make a strong statement. Do not sound wishy‐washy.

2. Do not start your thesis with “I believe,” “I think,” “In my opinion,” etc. If you wrote

it, we know it is your opinion. You do not need to tell us that.

3. Clear wording is essential. If your thesis is awkwardly worded or unclear, the rest of

the essay does not even matter!

4. Stay away from phrases like “This essay will show you” or “In this essay you will

learn.”

Example Thesis: Courage, responsibility, and open‐mindedness are characteristics that make Calpurnia an easily likeable character.

Again, the thesis in the outline in sentence form.

Step 2: Write your topic sentences.

This sentence serves as an introduction to your paragraph’s main idea. If it is not clear, your

reader will struggle to understand your point. Your topic sentences should also include

transitional words or phrases. (see handout of transitional words)

Example Transitions:

in the (first, second,)place

to begin with

initially

to start with

first of all

at first

secondly

similarly

in a like manner

likewise

what is more

moreover

furthermore

in addition (to this)

additionally

further

by the same token

in the same way

alternatively

in contrast

on the other hand

conversely

on the other hand

to conclude (with)

as a final point

finally

Here is an example of a strong topic sentence for body paragraph #2 (includes a

transitional phrase, which is underlined):

EX: In addition to being courageous, Calpurnia is a responsible caregiver for both

Jem and Scout.

Write your topic sentences using a transitional word or phrase in each one (refer to your outline!).

Underline your transition:

Topic Sentence #1 (Body Paragraph #1):

Topic Sentence #2 (Body Paragraph #2):

Topic Sentence #3 (Body Paragraph #3):

Step 3: Write your body paragraphs

*Each body paragraph must contain these elements!*

1. Topic sentence

Introduce example: Assume your reader is familiar with the plot and very briefly identify the reason the character either has the most courage or is likable/unlikable.

2. Quote

Provide the quote that supports the reason given above.

3. Analyze: explain/analyze how this particular example and its supporting quote supports your thesis.

This is the most important portion of the paragraph and should, therefore, be the most lengthy—at least three to five sentences!

Example Body Paragraph:

(Topic Sentence): To begin with, Calpurnia illustrates the meaning of courage several times

throughout the novel. (Introduce Example): One of the most courageous acts that Calpurnia takes is

defending Scout and Jem’s presence at First Purchase Church. (Quote): When she and the children

arrive, Lula, a member of the all‐black congregation, inquires in a threatening manner, “ ‘I wants to

know why you bringin’ white chillun to nigger church’ ” (Lee 119). Calpurnia holds her ground and

confidently responds, “ ‘They’s my comp’ny’ ” (Lee 119). Lula continues to carry on, and Calpurnia

sternly threatens Lula’s advance on the children when she says, “ ‘Stop right there, nigger’ ” (Lee 119).

(Analyze): This presents evidence that Lula is a strong‐willed woman who knows how to upset and to dominate people. Obviosuly, she can mentality overpower people. Calpurnia, however, does not let Lula’s intimidating ways get the best of her. She calmly and firmly asserts the children’s right to attend church with her, despite the possibility that Lula’s threats could have turned dangerous. Calpurnia’s courageous character is shown clearly in her ability to stand up for herself and defend two white children.

Draft Body Paragraph #1

FOLLOW TIQA

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Draft Body Paragraph #2

FOLLOW TIQA

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Draft Body Paragraph #3

FOLLOW TIQA

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Step 4: Write your Introductory Paragraph

Your introductory paragraph is the first paragraph of your essay. There are three major components in

every successful introduction. The first is an attention getter. You want to grab your reader's

attention with a scenario, interesting fact, statistic, or quotation. Secondly, you must present all of the

necessary information for the reader to understand the paper. You want to inform your reader the

purpose of your essay. You will finish the introduction paragraph with the argument for the paper‐‐the thesis.

Follow ANT:

Attention‐Getter: First sentence or first few sentences should be an attention‐getter. There are

multiple ways to make up an attention‐getter:

relevant quote from an outside source

relevant quote from the story

a broad topic that is related to your thesis



a brief, relevant story or scenario that relates to paper topic

*After your attention‐getter you should seamlessly flow or transition into the next section (connect the two pieces of information):

Necessary information: This is information that will help to bring the reader up to speed on any

details that are necessary to understand the essay.

  • Author's full name

  • Title of the novel

  • Brief plot summary

Thesis: The last sentence of your introduction should be your thesis.

Example Introductory Paragraph:

(Attention Getter): People read fiction for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy the quiet, simple

pleasure of turning pages and getting lost in an intricate plot. Others read for the excitement of a

twist ending or a good adventure. Many people keep reading fiction because they become

attached to the characters of their favorite authors. Over time, writers have churned out millions of

books that include characters people have come to love and to admire for their honorable

personalities.

(Necessary Information): Like many books written over the centuries, Harper Lee’s classic novel, To

Kill a Mockingbird, contains a cast of admirable characters who demonstrate a variety of likable

qualities. Calpurnia, the African‐American caregiver of Scout and Jem, illustrates many honorable

traits that any reader would appreciate. (Thesis): Courage, responsibility, and open‐mindedness are

characteristics that make Calpurnia an easily likeable character.

Draft Introductory Paragraph

FOLLOW ANT

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Step 5: Write your Conclusion

Your conclusion should not merely be a summary. Your conclusion should show the importance of the

analysis that you have been making in the paper. Your conclusion must be a full paragraph, one or

two sentences is not enough to wrap up an entire essay!

A successful conclusion:

  • provides a warning

  • draws a comparison to similar situations

  • or provokes a vivid image

A successful conclusion does not do the following:

  • introduce new arguments, evidence, or details

  • apologize for doing a poor job of presenting the material

Formula for an effective conclusion:

1. Restate

Restate your thesis using DIFFERENT words. Do not simply restate your thesis word for word.

When you restate it, it can be more than one sentence.

2. Connect

Connect the analysis of your body paragraphs back to the information you mentioned in your

attention grabber of your introduction OR connect your analysis to a broad or well‐known topic

that is similar to what you analyzed in your essay.

3. Close

Provide a “clincher,” or memorable closing statement/question that leaves the reader thinking

about what you wrote.

Example of Conclusion Paragraph

Calpurnia’s courage, responsibility, and open‐mindedness, in particular, teach

humankind important lessons about the kinds of traits one

should value and strive to live their lives with. Readers can readily argue many reasons for

Calpurnia’s likeability as a character in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s novel is no

doubt one of those belief‐shaping pieces of literature whose admirable characters leave a lasting

impression upon people living out the journey of becoming better human beings.

Draft Concluding Paragraph

RESTATE, CONNECT, CLOSE

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Restatement of thesis

Connect

Closing sentence leaves reader thinking.

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Citing the Book:

Correct format for a quote that is NOT dialogue:

"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" (Lee 100).

Correct format for a quote that IS dialogue:

“ ‘It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and



you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do’ ” (Lee

112).

-If what you are quoting ends with a period in the book, you place your period after the

parenthesis.

-If what you are quoting ends with punctuation other than a period (? ! …) you include

this punctuation where it is seen AND you place a period after your parenthesis.

The final page of your essay will be the Works Cited page. Below is the EXACT

information you will place on this page. The title of the page is simply, Works Cited,

NOT “Bibliography.”

Works Cited

L e e, Ha r p e r. T o K i l l a Mo c k i n g b i r d. N ew Yo r k C i t y: Wa r n e r B o o k s, 1 9 6 0 .





  • Title at the top of the page. Notice that it is centered and it is not italicized, bolded, or underlined. No quotation marks are around it, either!

  • The first line is NOT indented! Lines beyond the first line are indented.


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