Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Should Girls Act Like Girls?

Scout is a tomboy and drives Aunt Alexandra crazy with her failure to “act like a girl.” Girls today certainly have more freedom than they did in Scout’s time, but are there still different standards for boys and girls behavior? In today’s world do labels like “tomboy” make sense anymore? Is there the same kind of pressure on boys to “act like boys”? Why or why not?

Is it All Right to Fail?

In his closing statement Atticus says that the phrase “all men are created equal” is often misused. He cites the example of teachers who “promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious--because [otherwise] the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority.” There has been a lot of debate in the media recently about the practice of “social promotion” in which all students are promoted to the next grade whether they pass or fail the standardized tests and “participation ribbons” where every competitor gets a ribbon whether they win or lose. Is it important to protect kids’ self-esteem or is it better to hold even young people accountable for their actual performance?

Are Some People Born Evil?

A major theme of the book is good vs. evil. People like the “foot washing Baptists” who confront Miss Maudie believe that people are naturally evil and that society must fight to reign in our evil nature and force people to follow the right path. On the other hand, Atticus has a lot of faith in human beings and always is able to see the good in everyone, even someone as mean and cruel as Mrs. Dubose. Are some people just born evil, or is it society and negative social influences (like learning to be racist, to be violent, or become a drunk) that turn basically good people into monsters like Bob Ewell?

True Courage

We talked quite a bit in class about true courage. What is your own personal definition of courage? Who is the most courageous character in the book? Why is he or she the most courageous?

Ain’t it Better to Talk Good?

Scout observes that Calpurnia speaks differently at church than she does around the Finch’s house. We also see Bob Ewell struggle to speak appropriately in court. Should people be judged by the way they speak or write? Should there be a “Standard English” that all people learn and use? Is it important to write and speak with proper grammar or should people just lighten up and let us write the way we want to as long as people know what we mean?

Names Will Never Hurt Me

We talked in class about the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” A lot of harsh words are directed toward people in Mockingbird; some other people get physically hurt. Which hurts worse, words or physical pain? Why?

When is Violence Acceptable?

A lynch mob tried to get to Tom Robinson, but Atticus (with some help from Scout) stopped them. Obviously it was wrong of those men to try to hurt an innocent man, but Boo Radley also takes the law into his own hands when he kills Bob Ewell and in that case Heck Tate and Atticus think it was justified. When is violence against another person justified? Is there ever a case where people should take the law into their own hands? Should people be able to get revenge against someone who wronged them or their family?