To Kill a Mockingbird

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2011, 12:00am

Starring: Gregory Peck
Director: Robert Mulligan
Year of original release: 1962


This is a movie adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize prize-winning novel by American author Harper Lee. The movie producers tried to remain scrupulously faithful to the novel. The film keeps all the warmth and humour of the book and doesn't shy away from the controversial issues of racial inequality and prejudice. Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch in the film has been called one of the greatest heroes in cinema history.


It is 1932 in America's Deep South. Maycomb is a quiet little town in the state of Alabama. Young Scout and her 10-year-old brother, Jem, live with their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, and their black housekeeper. Atticus is hired to defend a black man who is accused of attacking a white girl.

The white people in town are convinced of the man's guilt just because he is black. Atticus faces prejudice and challenges as he sets out to prove his client's innocence and ensure he gets a fair trial.

Racial Prejudice in the Deep South

The so-called 'Deep South' in the US is comprised of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. In the 19th century, these states grew rich from the use of slaves brought from Africa who were forced to work on cotton plantations.

Even after the abolition of slavery in 1865, blacks continued to be treated as inferior. It would take almost a century before they finally became equal in the Deep South, where acts of violence and blacks continued throughout the 1930s. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s was instrumental in helping African Americans stand up against racial discrimination.

Mama's going to buy you a mockingbird

The mockingbird is native to North America. It is famous for its ability to mimic the cries of other birds and other animals. It is as if the bird 'mocked' them; hence its name.

A mockingbird's vocal range can encompass more than 40 different sounds. The birds can imitate everything from barking dogs to train whistles and factory sirens. In the state of Mississippi, killing or injuring a mockingbird is regarded as a sin because the bird brings joy to people with its singing as it perches on fences, trees and rooftops.

Rosa's stand

It's 1955 and just after 6pm in the town of Montgomery in Alabama. Rosa Parks, a black woman, is waiting for the bus on Cleveland Avenue after a hard day's work at a department store.

On local buses black people are required by law to sit separately from whites and, if need be, give up their seats. That day, Rosa refused to give up hers. She was arrested and put in jail for breaking the law. Her act of defiance became national news and the simple shop worker turned into a powerful symbol for Civil Rights activists demanding equality for blacks. Rosa later said she had refused to give up her seat as she was 'tired of giving in'.

I Have a Dream

The Civil Rights Movement reached its peak in the decade after 1955. In 1964, the US government finally passed the Civil Rights Act, which guaranteed equal rights for all US citizens regardless of their colour. The late 1950s and early 60s saw many nonviolent protests by activists, who staged sit-ins at universities and a march of 250,000 people in Washington, DC, in 1963.

On August 28 in 1963, the movement's leader Martin Luther King delivered his famous 'I have a dream' speech, which called for racial harmony. Read his speech in full at