To Kill a Mockingbird #LiteraryFilmReview

To Kill a Mockingbird is a 1962 film based on the novel by Harper Lee (1960). The film opens with a child opening a toy chest containing wooden dolls, jacks and marbles, loose crayons, a pocket watch engraved “to Atticus my beloved husband”, a whistle, and a harmonica. The Child draws a bird and colors it in. When the child is done with the illustration, they giggle and rip it right down the middle, tearing apart the bird. The items in the toy chest can be seen throughout the film as little scene tokens and hidden gems; it’s like playing “I Spy,” while watching a film. Some of the items have more meaning than others which have little to no meaning at all.

The setting of this story takes place in Maycomb, AL. The introduction is narrated by six-year old Scout. She’s playing outside when Mr. Cunningham comes by to drop off some hickory nuts as payment for the legal work done by her father, Atticus Finch. See, Mr. Cunningham is a poor country man who works as a farmers and owns his land. The year is 1932. note: after the Great Depression. One of their neighbors, Ms. Atkinson, is in her front yard watering her plants. She tells the children, Scout and her older brother, Jem to count their blessings and stop complaining because their father can’t play games with them or eat breakfast together. They should be so grateful that he’s a hard working man.

Childhood Adventures

Scout and Jem head out looking for something to do, maybe even an adventure to get into when they meet a new kid on the street. A boy named Dill from Mississippi is visiting for the summer, he introduces himself as “little but old”. Scout and Jem show him around the neighborhood. They walk up the street together to a creepy neighbors house. Apparently, there’s a maniac kid inside named Boo Radley. The rumor is that he stabbed his father in the leg with scissors and then kept cutting up his scrapbook as if nothing happened… A few more houses down we meet an older woman named Mrs. DuBose. She sits on her porch while the kids make jokes at her expense. The old woman ignores them and only says hello to Atticus. Later that night, Atticus is tucking in Scout to bed and we learn that she’s growing up as an only girl in the house and without a mother to show her the ropes. She mentions how she got a string of pearls and a ring from her mother when she passed and she wonders what she will get from her Atticus when he dies or when she’s old enough to inherit something from him.

Even though this film has many elements tied in to it and the reason for this review is actually to address to racism and discrimination that exists in this literary film, but I really must admit that I enjoy the moments in the film with the children. We get to see what the events look like from a child’s perspective and when the morals of the story are grasped by small children, it makes you wonder why adults don’t understand the difference between right and wrong. There’s a specific quality of childhood innocence and naivety, as well as, curiosity and fear of the unknown that is displayed in the scenes involving Scout, Jem and Dill that makes their summertime adventures have meaning in the big picture of it all. Their activities cause other main events to happen and make sense to the reader/viewer.

Representation Matters

Atticus is scheduled to meet with Judge Taylor, in which he appoints Atticus to a new case that has an upcoming hearing very soon. On his way out Atticus runs into a man named, Mr. Ewell; he’s at the courthouse dressed in overalls with a hat on(how appropriate). He tells Atticus, “I’m really sorry they picked you to defend that n***** who raped my Mayella. I don’t know why I didn’t kill him myself instead of going to the sheriff.” He continues by talking about how he told his associates that Atticus is not taking Tom Robinson’s story over his story. Atticus assures Mr. Ewell of the opposite, that he is indeed representing Mr. Robinson. Mr. Ewell is disgusted and disappointed by this response. Here’s the reason why: Back then and technically still today, white men always stick together, especially in the South and especially when it comes to race. This is why we see white police officers and politicians who have a “boys club” mentality because they think that if they stick together and keep their ties strong then they won’t ever get caught for any injustices or crimes they commit. Mr. Ewell is clearly upset and does not agree with Atticus defending Tom Robinson because it alludes to be an act of betrayal amongst the unwritten code of white men or “the boys club”… When the reality of it is that Atticus is an attorney and has a job to do regardless of the personal beliefs of himself or others.

Atticus goes to Robinsons’ house to give Helen, Tom’s wife, some updates about the case including that he got the trial adjourned so that they can have time to prepare for the best and for the worst. Mr. Ewell shows up at the Robinson home drunk and calls Atticus a “n****r lover”.

This kind of attitude and animosity follows Scout to school. She gets into a fight at school with a boy named Cecil Jacobs, because he was talked bad about her father, saying he defends n****rs and calling him names. Atticus listens carefully to Scout’s side of the story and he admits but also corrects her language when he responds to her that he is indeed defending a “negro” in a criminal case. Scout thanks her dad for explaining and shows understanding the best she can for her age. She leaves her father’s side and goes off to play outside with Jem. They talk about the Egyptians being the cradle of civilization because they invented embalming fluid and toilet paper. On their adventures, the children find two wooden dolls inside a tree trunk by their house. There was a golden metal there the day before, interesting. A few days later, a strange neighbor seals the tree trunk shut with cement, as if to close a portal or gateway of some sort. It makes me wonder where the toys came from and why.

The Courthouse Scene

School came and went, summer is back for vacation. It’s been a year since the beginning of the film nd Tom Robinson is back in town for trial tomorrow. He even gets visitors overnight at the court house. A gang of white men show up with their guns to potentially kill Mr. Robinson. The neighborhood children are in the area, trying to sneakily visit Atticus when they see this gang of men step of their cars with weapons in hand. The children walk up to the court house to investigate what’s happening. Scout embarrasses Mr. Cunningham in front of everyone and then the men leave. Wow, all it took was a little girl speaking out of turn to get these men ashamed enough to go home. They know they’re wrong too…


The Trial of Tom Robinson

The next day, the entire town is headed to the courthouse to watch the trial, the courtroom is packed solid. The kids can’t find any space to get in to watch the trial, Jem notices the church Reverend (a black man), and they go upstairs to the second floor of the courtroom with him.

The first witness to the stand is Sheriff Tate. His side of the story is that he gets a call from Mr. Ewell telling him to rush over, saying that his girl had been raped. When the Sheriff arrives, the woman shows that she was beaten in the face, with a black eye on her right eye, bruises forming on her arms and hand markings around her neck. Mr. Finch questions the witness about if a doctor was called to the scene of the crime to examine and confirm that Mayella was actually raped. A doctor was not called, scheduled or otherwise.

The second witness to the stand is Mr. Robert Ewell. He gives testimony that he saw his girl and Tom Robinson in the house together, that he saw Mr. Robinson forcing himself onto his girl and when he went in the house that Mr. Robinson ran out of the front door and Mayella was crying that he had raped her. Upon cross-examination, Mr. Finch asks again about a doctor and it is confirmed that a doctor was not called to the scene. He follows up by asking Mr. Ewell if he can read and write. Mr,. Ewell says yes and Mr. Finch kindly requests that he show the court his writing ability by putting his name on a piece of paper. This is a demonstration that provides us with evidence. We learn that Mr. Ewell is left handed, alluding to the fact that Mayella had a black eye on her right side and if she was facing the person who hit her, they would have had to be a dominantly left handed person.

The third witness is Mayella, herself. She tells the story that she needed help with chopping a chifforobe and was willing to pay a nickel for the labor done. She had let Mr. Robinson inside the gate before to get the work done. When asked about if Mr. Robinson had ever hit or touched her before, she said no, then she lies and says that he had hit her before. Mr. Finch continues by asking her about her relationship with Mr. Ewell and she said he’s tolerable, however, Mr. Finch knows that Mr. Ewell is a different man when he drinks, which Mayella confirms. The questions continue, now centered around Mayella’s credibility. Atticus wants to make sure that she is sure in testifying under oath that Mr. Robinson raped her. He even asks Mr. Robinson to stand up so that Mayella can get a good look at him in review. While standing, Atticus tosses a cup to Mr. Robinson and asks him to catch it, he catches it with his right hand and tosses it back. Now, Mr. Finch asks him to catch it with his left hand. Mr. Robinson says that he cannot because his left hand was caught in a cotton gin when he was 12 years old and it tore the muscle so he cannot catch with his left hand. This illustrates that Mr. Robinson did not punch Mayella in the face, let alone strangle and rape her with only one working hand/arm. Mayella becomes hysterical because she realizes that she has lied against a man who would have never hurt her, even if he wanted to, he couldn’t… Now she has to lay with that guilt, yet she continues to play the innocent “I didn’t do anything” “I’m the victim” white woman role. She cries and throws a fit, yelling as loud as she can, calling the men of the jury and the Judge cowards for not taking action.

Lastly, our fourth witness is the defendant himself, Tom Robinson. He is finally at the stand to tell his side of the story. The truth. He tells the court about how Mayella would always asks him to help out with things around the yard and the house and when she went to pay him a nickel, Mr. Robinson said there was no charge. She mentioned that she had a door that needed fixing inside the house and invited him in, he told her that the door was fine, she said that she had saved money for the children to go out and get ice cream, Mr. Robinson told her that was so nice of her to treat them and that he better be getting along since there was no work to be done. Ms. Mayella said that she needed help getting something off a high shelf so Mr. Robinson got on top of a chair and she grabbed his legs firmly from behind, he got scared and jumped off the chair. She jumped on top of him and hugged him around the waist, trying to kiss him, saying that she had never been with a real man before. Mr. Ewell ran to the window, cussing her and saying he was going to kill her. Mr. Robinson ran for his life out of the front door. Upon cross examination, Mr. Gilmer questioned Mr. Robinson on his character asking why would he do all these chores for free when she clearly had a husband and seven children who could have helped her… Mr. Robinson said he felt sorry for her.

Yes, sorry for a white woman who has no love, no attention, no purpose. Who sits in a house all day with a man whose a drunk and taking care of the seven children on their property. She has never experienced being with a real man before because in her eyes, in her heart, she hasn’t. She doesn’t feel confident and loved by her family. That’s why Tom felt sorry for her. He could see her pain and despair. She was unhappy with her life.

Check out the defense’s closing argument in the video below to see what happens next:

Even with the presented argument points: lack of medical evidence to prove a rape occurred, substantial evidence of a beaten Mayella by someone with a left hand and the testimony of the defendant that put all the pieces together, the jury still voted and presented a guilty verdict. Mr. Robinson was put back in handcuffs and sent off to prison. As the rest of the courtroom attendees exited, the black community sat in their seats waiting for Mr. Finch to finish packing up his belongings. They only stood up as he passed and left the courtroom to show their respect for him presenting the best argument possible and doing the right thing by his client.

An Untimely Death

After the trial is over, Atticus walks home with the children. When they arrive, their neighbor, Ms. Atkinson stops by the house. She sits on the porch and speaks with the children, while Atticus is speaking with the Sheriff Tate who just pulled in a police car. You can see them talking but without hearing their words. Atticus walks up to the front porch and reports the news, Tom Robinson is dead. It is reported that they were on the way out of town to take Tom somewhere for safekeeping when he jumped out of the car and ran. The deputy called out for him to stop but Tom kept running. The deputy shot at him to wound him and missed his aim, killing Tom. You can believe this part if you want to but I don’t believe it is true. If this was a real life situation, it wouldn’t be ruled out that the deputy killed Tom on purpose, he was paid by the Ewell’s to kill Tom, or paid by the town folk to kill Tom. For all we know, the town folk were the ones who killed Tom themselves and the deputy is covering it up so he doesn’t get in trouble for collaborating.

Finch goes to the Robinson’s home to report the bad news to Helen. Jem insists on coming with him so he does but he stays in the car. Mr. Finch meets a man named, Spence, who is Tom’s father. He talks about an appeal, wondering how long it will take to process. Mr. Finch interrupts him to report that Tom is dead, Helen comes running out and begins sobbing. The men take her inside. Mr. Ewell shows up, he tells one of the black men on the porch to bring Mr. Finch outside. He sees Jem sitting in the car. When Mr. Finch comes back outside, he spits in his face. The suspense builds up as we wait to see what Mr. Finch will do. He steps forward, Mr. Ewell flinches, then he reaches to the side of his pants, Mr. Ewell starts to flinch again then realizes he’s only reaching for a handkerchief to wipe his face. Mr. Finch gets in his car and leaves.

A Change of Season

A few months go by, it’s now October. Scout is in a county pageant about their agricultural products, she’s playing the part of a ham. On the way home from the play, Jem and Scout are attacked in the woods. There’s a scuffle, someone steps in the fight the attacker then carries Jem home and Scout finally is able to crawl out of her ham costume and runs home. Atticus calls the doctor and the sheriff. Jem’s arm is broken and put into a splint. The sheriff comes over and reports that Mr. Ewell was found dead in the woods where Jem and Scout were attacked. He was stabbed by someone. Scout recalls what happens to the sheriff and her father, the person they’re looking for is standing behind the door. A man named, Arthur Radley, also known as, “Boo”. Atticus is on the front porch with Sheriff Tate discussing the events of the evening when he comes to the conclusion that Jem was only acting in self defense and Sheriff Tate immediately disagrees with him, saying that the boy didn’t kill Mr. Tate.

The Meaning of “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Earlier in the film, we met the son of Mr. Cunningham, Walter; he goes to the same elementary school as Scout and Jem. Scout got into a fight with Walter because he made her give a bad first impression on their teacher when she tried to explain why he didn’t have lunch money. He was probably too embarrassed to say anything though because his family is poor. Jem decided to invite Walter over for dinner at their house. Walter accepted the offer. He was excited to have a real home cooked meal with roast beef and all the fixings. The two boys get on a conversation about hunting and guns. Jem has been talking about wanting a gun for a while now and he is eager, but his father won’t let him.

So, Atticus tells them the story of when he got his first gun, “I was about thirteen or fourteen. I remember when my daddy gave me that gun. He told me that I should never point at anything in the house. And that he’d rather I’d shoot at tin cans in the backyard. But he said sooner or later he’d suppose the temptation to go after birds would be too much. That I could shoot all the blue jays I wanted, if I could hit them, but to remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird… I reckon because mockingbirds don’t do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat in people’s gardens, they don’t nest in the corncribs. They don’t do one thing, but just sing their hearts out for us.”

Meaning #1: The mockingbird is a metaphor for black people. It is saying that black people are good at one thing: singing and entertaining others. It is a sin to kill them because they are only good at doing one thing and they don’t bother anyone. But, the second a mockingbird (black person) is capable of doing more than one thing, doing more than just being entertaining, and especially if they cause someone a problem, it is no longer a sin to kill them.

Meaning #2: The mockingbird is Mr. Arthur Radley. He didn’t do anything wrong, he stopped a crime from being committed. However, if the case were to be taken to court and go to trial, it would only cause harm to Boo for his shy personality in some heat of the lime light wouldn’t do any good to anyone. It would be a sin to make a fuss of the situation when Mr. Ewell was the one who caused the town so much disturbance. If anything, Mr. Radley saved the town and did them some good. Mr. Finch sees his point and accepts it. He thanks Mr. Radley for protecting his children.

Thank you for checking in and reading this blog until the very end. Leave your comments and questions down below. Let me know if you have any ideas on what you’d like to see next. Take care!

About Brittany J. Rosario 48 Articles
Brittany J. Rosario is a Versatile Writer, who isn't afraid of expressing herself through various media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Spotify podcast. She enjoys writing poetry, abstract painting, freestyle dancing and reviewing popular culture, history and iconic moments. Being a content creator gives her a different perspective on life. Her purpose is to maintain a positive and informative environment where people can be their true selves.