The Elements of Literacy Canon in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Although most classics seem extremely outdated and what many people think to be no longer relevant in today’s vastly modern world, they demonstration society what we have developed from. How far we have come from those times of which the classic was written. How are we to know our progress if there is nothing to reflect and compare it with. The future generations learning of the world’s past views and mistakes will hopefully lead to them to never happen again with the consequences documented rawley. A classic movie and book that powerfully enforce this concept are ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. This story shows the culture of 1936 in the small town of Maycomb in Alabama, USA, 40 years after the supreme court notorious decoration of the races of American being “separate but equal”. The movie and book display the past that children in America and other countries around the world that were not present for and have little understanding of. Without being there it’s very difficult to grasp a concept of what living in this time was like with the prejudice surrounding people of colour and people who were just a little bit different. For these young people to have knowledge and empathy of the pasts of their ancestors, it would therefore extent their empathy for each other and gratefulness, hopefully making the future a better world to live in, no matter what your gender, sexuality or skin colour.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is a timeless classic included in the literary canon because of the way it has transcended time and broken cultural barriers from the time it was written. The literary canon refers to a body of books and other texts that are considered to be most important and influential at the time of a massive event or change in the world. America in the 19th century represents one of these time periods, producing the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Through its universal themes and close attention to issues of the past, it transports today’s western readers into what seems an entirely different planet, where many of them wouldn’t have been accepted. As one of the first novels to display the prejudice that was present at the time, this story marks a massive change in the way society perceives people of a different race, this is the key reason for its inclusion in the canon. It’s important for young people to understand that this discrimination happened, and it still does happen in many parts of the world, even right here. As well as these issues being addressed, the book’s evoke for emotion and memorable characters that the audience can easily empathise with strongly support, ‘To kill A Mockingbird’ as a powerful piece in this collection of works that is still very much needed to be taught to the future generations.

Harper Lee’s use of literacy devices have had a very important place in earning the book a place in the Canon. Such devices help connect the reader to the deep story being told. Some devices that are used in this book are its point of view and symbolism. The story is set through Scouts eyes. She gives the reader the events from her childhood perspective, only 6 years old. This makes the narration extremely naïve and innocent, as she does not understand the scale of horrific events around her. She describes the events as she experiences them as facts, without any bias opinions or hatred. While it is refreshing for the story to be told simply, it is also intriguing seeing how a child would see the culture back then in 19th century Alabama, which also shows us no child is born racist, it is taught. The future generations would come to love scout as they can relate to her perspective, with being children themselves. The strong symbolism between the mad dog and the court case, the children and the Radley’s house and innocent men and the mockingbird is completely unique and really makes the audience ponder over its true message. “They don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' The symbolism and point of view give the reader or watcher a way to personally connect and relate with the story being told. Remembering how they viewed the world when they were younger or seeing the same links the author created. Its this connection that has kept ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ so popular over the last 50 years, earning its place in the literacy canon.

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Stereotypes are still current in today’s society; however, we have learnt to attempt to discard some and should continue to do so. “To Kill a Mockingbird” represents the stereotype that a majority that white people believed in the 1930s was that black men are rough like animals. “The evil assumption—that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption that one associates with minds of their calibre.” This false assumption leads an innocent man to this death. Atticus says, 'I guess Tom was tired of white men’s chances and preferred to take his own.' The summary of the trial is that a black man (Tom Robinson) has been accused of raping a white woman, though there is no evidence to support her claim it still managers to end up in court. The prejudice is so strong in the community that there is no way for the accused man to receive an honest and fair trial and judgement. Alike the African American people of Maycomb, Alabama, Boo Radley also faces discrimination and is misunderstood by the community. This is evident as the children have to deep fascination and fear of their neighbourhood, terror of the Radleys. However, they don’t know nor have ever seen Boo or his behaviour. The people of the town talk and spread stories about how dangerous and mad the Radley’s son is, therefore leading the children to believe them and then pass on their stories. He is not what people have made him out to be. When Jem and Scout finch are passing through the woods a man who is against their father’s work with Negros attacks them. It was Boo Radley who put his life on the line to save his neighbours. Just because he was different from the rest of the community, there was no reason to fear him. He had been ostracized just like the black people of the community, even if there was no clear evidence to support it.

Although the book of “To Kill A Mockingbird” is still selling millions of copies worldwide, it is the classic movie that might reach the next generation with more ease. Our world in the 21st century moves fast, and many would argue that books are no longer needed. This personal preference as began since the beginning of movies for children as it is easier to be passive and watch a movie rather than read a book. The classic film of “To Kill A Mockingbird” is a key to teach the young generations of this message to eliminate racism and help them understand its presence, especially if they can’t read yet. This movie is appealing through its highly likable characters, emotion evoke, cinematic scenes and its use of literary devices, just like the book. Atticus, one of the main characters is the figure that pushes this movement and shapes future of ‘Black lives matter’. He is the represented person that the author believes people should strive to be with this passion to help everyone, his commitment to justice and sticking to what he believes is right no matter what people say. Even with the backlash he faces from his town, Atticus is determined to help people revaluate their views. He is highly likeable, especially with this attitudes towards his children and everyone he meets. The audience strive for him to win the court case and help the innocent against the cruel. However, the reality is firmly displayed, showing our generations of the unfair natures of that time. He states ‘the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.” Seeing the emotions of the characters on the screen who are dealing with such tragic circumstances, the emotion evoke it gives weighs heavy on the viewer. Seeing Tom distract, the confused faces of the children, and the devotion in Atticus’ eyes, it feels as if you are there yourself ready to defend the people you have come to love. The close and very close ups that pan onto the characters face give us a slowed down of their reaction to an event which is sure to go unnoticed or overlooked in the book. ‘A picture is worth one thousand words.’ The use of cinematic scenes also visually draws the audience in. Although the movie is in black and white, the use of light and tones gives the viewer an aesthetic experience. it also brings the dull or sad mood to the movie, once again creating emotional evoke. For example, the Radley’s house is dark and dull, showing how the children perceive the house and how terrifying it was for them. And the darkness when Tom’s family have found out he is dead and when Scout and Jem are attacked. The use of sound creates a shock element for the audience, giving a sense that you are in that reality experiencing the same events as the characters. Therefore, the movie of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ really gives the watchers a more detailed and fulfilling involvement especially for the younger generation.

Without such pieces in the ‘Literacy Canon’, especially the story “To Kill a Mockingbird” the future generation would be without guidance. The stories that have transcended through time are a powerful tool to prevent such hardships that people had to face, leading the people of the present to be understanding and mindful. Whether one is aware of it, literary canons permeate society on many levels and have undoubtedly shaped everyone's world view, the view that we want to show the world. The future generations learning of the worlds past views and mistakes will hopefully lead to them understanding it better from other people’s perspectives, with knowing what they went through. It is strongly urged that classics remain to be taught in depth in classrooms with the story telling children of such important lessons that are needed to be known in our world. A classic book and movie that powerfully enforces this concept is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

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The Elements of Literacy Canon in To Kill a Mockingbird. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from
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