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The Analysis of the Extract from the Novel “to Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

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Nelle Harper Lee was born April 28, 1926. She is an American novelist, who has published only one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Born in Monroeville, Alabama, she studied law at the University of Alabama, then spent a year in the United Kingdom, studying at Oxford. Living in New York City, she supported herself working as an airline reservation clerk, but was soon determined to pursue a career in writing. She left her job and put together a series of short stories about life in the South, which she first submitted for publication in 1957. Encouraged by her editor, she worked the stories into a novel, To Kill a Mockingbird which was a critically acclaimed best-seller. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her work in 1961. After the success of her book, Lee felt that if she wrote another it would be anticlimatic. Lee apparently retired from writing. The strongest element of style noted by critics and reviewers is Lee’s talent for narration, which in an early review in Time was called “tactile brilliance”.

Writing a decade later, another scholar noted, “Harper Lee has a remarkable gift of story-telling. Her art is visual, and with cinematographic fluidity and subtlety we see a scene melting into another scene without jolts of transition.” Lee combines the narrator’s voice of a child observing her surroundings with a grown woman’s reflecting on her childhood, using the ambiguity of this voice combined with the narrative technique of flashback to play intricately with perspectives. This narrative method allows Lee to tell a “delightfully deceptive” story that mixes the simplicity of childhood observation with adult situations complicated by hidden motivations and unquestioned tradition. However, at times the blending causes reviewers to question Scout’s preternatural vocabulary and depth of understanding. Summary.

The book is about Tom Robinson, a Negro, who was charged with raping a white girl. This particular abstract depicts the trial. Atticus Finch, an experienced lawyer, tried to prove the innocence of the Robison. But the jury announced a verdict that Robinson was guilty. The historical background of the book is “the year of grace” – 1935. That period in America is often called “The Age of Jazz”. It was the time of comparative wealth and peace, and prosperity was claimed an official ideology. Equal rights were established for all men, and women movement also achieved considerable results by that time. But in contrast to this, many public freedoms and human rights were proclaimed, but not executed. And Harper Lee places the action into that period, 60 years after slavery prohibition. Though the black were considered equal by courts, publicity still couldn’t bear it. The theme of the text is an issue of justice. The message of Happer Lee is that in the face of court each and every human should be treated honestly, no matter what his social status, education or colour of skin is. In this text there are no event’s chains, but it is represented by author’s speech. Structural division of the text.

The story was told on behalf of Jean Louise, Atticus’s daughter. It made the story more vivid, tense and emotional. As a daughter she noticed a lot of details which were unusual for Atticus. (… Atticus did something I never saw him do before or since, in public or in private: he unbuttoned his vest, unbuttoned his collar, loosened his tie, and took off his coat. He never loosened a scrap of his clothing until he undressed at bedtime, and to Jem and me, this was the equivalent of him standing before us stark naked…). Her notes revealed the emotions and feelings of the lawyer, his changing condition during the process of the trial. If the story were written from the point of view of Atticus or the author, it would turn down as a mater-of-fact narration. The details were omitted. (such as Tom Robinson was toying with papers…). The story would lose its objectivity, because Atticus could not describe the event without personal opinion. The author represents the Atticus’s speech in direct form. If it was represented indirectly, the reader would not hear the lawyer’s voice. On the contrary, the author’s point of view would prevail and the reader could think the author foist his opinion.

Atticus words in direct speech have more effect on the reader. It creates such atmosphere as if the reader is in the court himself. The general atmosphere of this abstract is rather tense. The author keeps the reader in suspense till the very end. The readers take their breath wishing to know that the Negro is innocent. But the author uses the effect of defeated expectancy. In my opinion, the climax in this text is the verdict of the jury. Every “guilty” destroys any reader’s hope for justice. And this is exactly what the author wished to convey. She claims all men are created equal. That means all men have equal rights no matter what colour skin he or she has. People think with stereotypes. All Negroes lie, all Negroes are basically immoral beings, all Negro men are not to be trusted around the woman. But the reality can be the exact opposite of it. There are good Negroes and bad Whites. The author used parallel constructions to emphasize how narrow-minded people could be when they generalize. The court is probably the only place where all generalizations should be avoided. It is a crime to find somebody guilty without worthy evidence and proofs. Scout analyses the speech itself.

The speech reverses the publicistic style which it represents two variants: oral & written. It is used in public speeches and printed public works which are addressed to a broad audience and devoted to important social or political events, public problems of cultural or moral character. The publicist style has spoken varieties, in particular, the oratorical sub-style. This style is evident in speeches on political and social problems of the day, in orations and addresses on solemn occasions as public weddings, funerals and jubilees, in sermons and debates and also in the speeches of counsel and judges in courts of law. Certain typical features of the spoken variety of speech present in this style are: a) direct address to the audience by special formulas ( Gentlemen!; Miss Jean Luise1) Expressions of direct address can be repeated in the course of the speech and may be expressed differently (Mark you! Mind!). b) special formulas at the end of the speech to thank the audience for their attention (Thank you very much; Thank you for your time). c) the use of the 1st person pronoun we; 2nd person pronoun you. d) the use of contractions; (He’s just gone…;What’s he say…?) e) features of colloquial style such as asking the audience questions as the speaker attempts to reach closer contact. The author used a lot of colloquial words such as Negro, stupid and evil, crashing down etc.

The words of evidence – jury, defendant, offense. Also there is a big variety of literary and bookish words. In order to emphasize the actions & conditions of the heroes, the author uses the stylistic devices which are admirable. The text is rich with repetitions (some people would have us believe – some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity, some people make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others – some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men.). Repetitions and numerous parallel constructions allow the lawyer to seem more persuasive, to make people think over his words, to make his speech more clear for the audience. Scout tells us about the reaction of the jury, and Harper Lee hides irony in her words: “and the jury seemed to be attentive: their heads were up, and they followed Atticus’s route with what seemed to be appreciation”; lexical repetition of the word “seem’ combined with syntactical parallelism intensifies the irony.

Moreover stylistic devices are determined by the conditions of communication: jury represents uneducated & unliterary people. Atticus assures the jury that the case is very simple – with the help of gradation and antithesis: “…this case is not a difficult one, it requires no minute sifting of complicated facts, but it does require you to be sure beyond all reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant. This case should never have come to trial”. He sums it up by allusive simile: “this case is as simple as black and white’. Then Atticus tells the public his own version of the events. He used antithesis, lexical repetition, epithets. Atticus underlines the absurdity of the case by lexical and syntactical repetition combined with antithesis “She tempted a Negro. She was white, and she tempted a Negro”, and also by an ironical epithet “unspeakable”. Numerous epithets and similes were used to express the author’s attitude. Epithets give personal appraisal of the author, his individual opinion. They convey his emotions. (Judge tailor’s voice … was tiny).

This epithet can express the doubt of the judge. He uses metaphors “distaff side” and “hurling at us” with meaning to arouse negative emotions and readdresses them. He brings an example of schools where the stupid and idle are promoted with the industrious (substantivized adjectives), and then underlines that all men are not created equal, employing syntactical parallelism accompanied by anaphora: “some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity, some man make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others – some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men”. There is also bathos in the sentence: some people are gifted – and some ladies make better cakes, and it makes the pathos milder. To sum up, I can say, that the extract gives a false impression of the book. It is devoted to childhood first, and the story with Tom Robinson is just an episode in it, though giving much for thinking. The idea of the fight between justice and injustice is given their unobtrusively. And I think, that sometimes it is important for a child to see injustice to know, how valuable justice is.

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