"To Kill a Mockingbird," written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, is a story about standing up for those who have been wrongly accused and falsely judged by society. Essay topics should center on the primary characters and central themes, such as prejudice, human nature, good versus evil, friendship and compassion.
Opt for an essay topic on one or more noble characters in the book who take a strong stance against prejudice and injustice. Discuss characters who refuse to conform to societal expectations and represent the moral, honorable side of human nature. For example, Atticus Finch -- protagonist Scout Finch's father -- agrees to defend a black man who is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. Scout Finch narrates the story from the perspective of an adult looking back on the events, which took place when she was in elementary school. An essay on Scout could discuss her befriending of a local recluse -- Boo Radley -- who is the target of gossip and ridicule. Maudie Atkinson, the Finches' widowed neighbor, stands up for goodness and social justice when her wealthy lady friends belittle Radley and criticize Finch.
Symbolism of the Mockingbird
Select an essay topic on the symbolism of the mockingbird. The title of the book, along with Finch's quote "It's a sin to kill a mockingbird," are designed to help readers understand the role morality plays in human nature. Without a keen understanding of right and wrong, humans often make decisions that are selfish, careless and hateful. Use Atkinson's conversation with Scout in Chapter 10 to support reasons why the mockingbird represents innocent people who are mistreated, wrongfully accused and rejected.
Loss of Innocence Themes
You could also write about a central theme in the book -- the loss of innocence. Scout, her older brother Jem and their friend Dill are all examples of goodness and innocence in the book. However, injustice, selfishness and hatred in their small town eventually take a heavy toll on the kids. Each experiences difficult situations that erase a bit of their childhood innocence. Use examples from the trial, run-ins with local residents, encounters with Radley and conversations with Finch and Atkinson to support your arguments.
Finch Family Relationships
Discuss how Scout and Jem's views of their father change over the course of the book. Initially, Scout sees her dad as strict and unfair; he makes her apologize for her misconduct at school. Jem views his dad as emotionless and dispassionate -- a man who lacks effective parenting skills and stereotypical masculine traits. Over time, the two learn to respect, admire and empathize with their dad. Use Finch's quotes from the book, the scene with the "mad" dog, discussions with Scout and Jem about the trial, his response to the guilty verdict and his parental wisdom concerning Radley to support your points.
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