To Kill a Mockingbird Essay Questions/Answers

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To Kill a Mockingbird Questions

1. Boundaries/Limitations: What is the nature of a boundary/limitation? What are they designed to do? What characters are bound/limited throughout To Kill a Mockingbird and how do they break those boundaries in the novel? Give specific examples to support your thought. The nature and design of a boundary/limitation is to restrain someone from going anywhere or doing anything. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem Finch, Scout Finch, Arthur “Boo” Radley, Dill Harris, Mayella Ewell, Tom Robinson, and Dolphus Raymond all break boundaries. Jem, Scout, and Dill break boundaries when they attempt to touch the Radley House: “Jem stood in thought so long that Dill made a mild concession: ‘I won’t say you ran out on a dare an’ I’ll swap you The Gray Ghost it you just go up and touch the house.’ Jem brightened. ‘Touch the house, that all?’ Dill nodded…Jem threw open the gate and sped to the side of the house, slapped it with his palm and ran back past us, not waiting to see if his foray was successful” (18). Jem touches the Radley House which results in Jem, Scout, and Dill’s summertime boundaries being broken. They also break boundaries many other times, most of them having to do with the Radley House. “Boo” Radley is breaking a boundary, as he is outside of his home: “He was still leaning against the wall. He had been leaning against the wall when I came into the room, his arms folded across his chest…’Hey, Boo,’ I said” (362). “Boo” Radley goes out of his house which he is never supposed to do, and thus breaks his boundary. Mayella Ewell is breaking a boundary when she is trying to seduce Tom Robinson: “‘She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unbreakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards’” (272). When Mayella is seducing Tom, she is breaking a time-honored code in her time period. That code is to never have a sexual relationship with a Negro. Tom Robinson is breaking his boundary when he says he felt sorry for Mayella: “‘Yes, suh. I felt sorry for her, she seemed to try more’n the rest of ‘em-’ ‘You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?’ Mr. Gilmer seemed ready to rise to the ceiling. The witness realized his mistake and shifted uncomfortably in the chair” (264). When Tom says he felt sorry for her, he is breaking a boundary because in this time period, Negros do not usually feel sorry for white people who look down upon them. Dolphus Raymond is breaking a boundary because he is in love with a Negro: “’Always does. He [Dolphus Raymond] likes ‘em [Negros] better than he like us [white people], I reckon. Lives by himself way down near the county line. He’s got a colored woman and all sorts of mixed chillum. Show you some of ‘em if we see ‘em” (214). Dolphus, like Mayella, loved a Negro so they are both, technically speaking, breaking the same boundary. However Dolphus is able to get away with it because everyone thinks he is a drunk.

2. Invisibility: Who in the novel is “invisible”? Why? To whom? What do you think is the author’s purpose in creating these invisible characters?
“Boo” Radley, obviously, is an “invisible” character. Burris Ewell is another “invisible” character. “Boo” Radley is invisible because he is not allowed to go outside, so even when he is outside, no one notices his presence: “It was obvious that he had not followed a word Jem said, for all Atticus said was, ‘You’re right. We’d better keep this and the blanket for ourselves. Someday maybe, Scout can thank him for covering her up.’ ‘Thank who?’ I asked. ‘Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn’t know it when he put the blanket around you” (96). “‘Somebody was staggerin’ around and pantin’ and-coughing fit to die. I thought it was Jem at first but it didn’t sound like him so I went lookin’ for Jem...
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