Le Diable et le Bon Dieu


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Jean-Paul Sartre

In order to understand the basis behind To Kill a Mockingbird, it is important to know a little about the author. Additionally, an awareness of the time period and the issues that were important to society during that time period can provide insight into the work that would otherwise be overlooked. In Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926, Nelle Harper Lee was born. The town was small and sleepy, having similarities to the fictional town of Maycomb, Lee's setting for To Kill a Mockingbird. Much like Atticus Finch, the novel's protagonist, narrator, and father of main character Scout, Lee's father was also an attorney. Lee also had childhood friends who would grow up to be famous, included Truman Capote. He became an essayist and novelist, and was also Lee's inspiration for Dill, a character in To Kill a Mockingbird. An interview done in 1961 however, Lee stated that she was not intending to portray her own childhood. She was simply creating of a town in the South, which could, essentially, be any town. Despite that assertion, there are still parts of the book that have been shaped by events which took place in Lee's life when she was a child, or that happened to others she knew or heard of during that same time period.

Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in New York. She had moved there to focus on her writing career, and she published the book in 1960, just before the civil rights movement in the United States reached its peak. At the heart of the book is a trial, similar to one that took place during Lee's childhood in Alabama. It is, according to some, the epitome of the difficulties between black and white individuals and a clear indication of the racism that was rampant in the country during that time in history. There are mixed opinions on To Kill a Mockingbird when it came out in print. Some found the novel to be unconvincing, and did not enjoy the narrative voice. Others found it to be too moralistic in nature. Still, the book became very popular in the 1960s, mostly because of the civil rights undertones that run throughout the entire book. Racial tensions were very high during that time, and a book that explored those was going to be desired and read by the masses.

Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird, and more than 15 million copies of the book were sold. A film was also made two years after the book came out in print, and it won Academy Awards. At the time all of that was taking place, Lee retreated from the public. She stopped doing interviews, and someone else was hired to create the screenplay for the movie. Only a few more of her works were ever published, and those were short pieces. She never published another novel, and eventually moved back to her hometown. A short foreword written in Lee in 1993 addressed her desire to avoid critical introductions in future editions of To Kill a Mockingbird. Most colleges and high schools in the United States have the book on their reading lists for at least one class, and there are a large number of readers who were – and still are – deeply affected by the book. It depicts the innocence of childhood, condemns prejudice on racial grounds, and affirms human goodness and how it is able to withstand even strong assaults from evil and cruelty.

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