To Kill a Mocking Bird: Reading Guide

April 20, 2018


To Kill a Mockingbird is among the 100 novels on The Great American Read’s list of America’s Best-Loved Books, announced by PBS on April 20, 2018. The classic story by Harper Lee has been popular ever since it was first published in 1960. The novel reflects Lee’s upbringing in a small Southern town and the moral and legal ramifications of racism. In the novel, a girl named Scout is often bewildered by the behavior of adults, and even that of her friends and older brother Jem. She admires her father Atticus, a lawyer who is involved in a trial in town. Lee’s only other novel, Go Set A Watchman, was published in July 2015, and follows the character Scout, now a young woman, as she visits her hometown during the Civil Rights era.

The New York Public Library has put together this reading guide of questions to help individuals and book clubs through the major themes of To Kill a Mockingbird. Join in the discussion and add your thoughts in the comments below!

1. Who was the mockingbird?

2. How was the mockingbird killed?

3. How is Atticus’s sense of justice inferred when he tells the children they can shoot all the bluejays they want, but “it is a sin to kill a mockingbird”?

4. Was Atticus successful in instilling conscience in his children?

5. Was the teacher Miss Caroline unfair to Scout? How was the education system viewed?

6. What happened to Dill? And how does his childhood compare to Scout’s and Jem’s?

7. Why was Boo Radley never seen? Was he a villain, victim or hero?

8. How were Scout and Jem affected by the trial?

9. Was Calpurnia happy with the Finches? Why did her personality change when she was at church? Was she a realistic or idealized character?

10. How is the town of Maycomb and the morality of its people portrayed? Did the trial make a difference in their lives?

The author Harper Lee and her most famous novel are the subject of the American Masters film Harper Lee: Hey Boo, which can be seen at two free screenings at the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center on July 13. Learn more about the event and other screenings related to literature and The Great American Read.

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