Crash Course in To Kill a Mockingbird, Part I

John Green’s crash course in To Kill a Mockingbird introduces the novel that we all know and love as both fun and easy to read. Green introduces Scout, Jem and Dill, along with their obsession with the reclusive Boo Radley. Green offers that the children become “schooled in gender, race, and class relations in depression era Alabama.” He also introduces Atticus Finch, as public defender, beloved father and sharpshooter.

This crash course in To Kill a Mockingbird is a superb introduction to To Kill a Mockingbird, and much like the novel, is fun and easy to absorb, while packing quite a punch as far as content goes.

As the lesson moves forward, Green talks about the initial publication of To Kill a Mockingbird and its impact on the nation. He explains that there are critics, but Mockingbird also offers a kind of “timeless appeal,” and that the novel has had enormous reach.

Harper Lee
A Photo of Harper Lee by Aaron White Photography

A Crash Course in To Kill a Mockingbird’s author, Harper Lee

He also offers some commentary of author Harper Lee, whose life seemed to parallel that of her protagonist in many ways. Her father was an attorney who unsuccessfully defended a pair of African American men in a well-publicized trial; she lived in a small Alabama town, and was reared in part by an African American housekeeper. Green also talks about the fact that Lee never published after To Kill a Mockingbird—all of these bullet points are those that should make their ways into any classroom where the classic novel by Harper Lee is being taught.

A Crash Course in To Kill a Mockingbird: Plot

Green then spends some time explaining the Mockingbird story, and gives us a thirty-second, in-a-nutshell version of the classic tale, summing up the story with the fact that it’s all about empathy and perspective—and Scout learns the age-old lesson of looking at things from others’ points of view. Viewers, especially educators, may be left somewhat in awe of the range of material Green has covered to this point; he’s handing the viewer of his video a tidy package that touches beautifully on the real lessons of the work.

crash course in To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A Crash Course in To Kill a Mockingbird: Southern Gothic novel

Green then offers up another layer of food for thought as he discusses To Kill a Mockingbird as a Southern Gothic novel, and tells his audience about archetypes found in the novel: Boo the monster; Jem, Scout and Dill as the innocent victims; and Atticus as the heroic knight. Yet, there is also an underlying message that racism and ignorance are the real monsters and Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell are their helpless victims. Green also notes that the physical issues discussed throughout the book—broken arms, morphine addictions, aged bodies—play into the monster archetype.

A Crash Course in To Kill a Mockingbird: Gender, race and politics

Moving on in the crash course in To Kill a Mockingbird, Green speaks to the topic of gender and the notion that Scout prefers her tomboy ways because women seem to be at a social and intellectual loss in the setting. Scout “stands in opposition” that one must follow set guidelines to “be a real woman.” Scout learns from two strong females in her life, Calpurnia, the housekeeper, and Miss Maudie, a neighbor—neither fit the mold of a Southern Belle, but they do make Scout stronger with their care and influence. Green notes that Lee does point out that these women would never have had the power, during the time, of sitting on the jury that convicted Tom Robinson. Green wonders how that might have changed the story’s outcome—another thought that is well-pondered in literature and social studies classes, no matter the time period.

Green finishes his twelve-minute commentary crash course in To Kill a Mockingbird by expounding the richness of the seemingly simple work, and reminding the reader that this story is nothing if not multi-dimensional. He’s done an excellent job of bringing out that multi-dimensional character in his description and commentary—which is well worth 12 minutes of your time.

For those who’d like to compare his commentary with the original work, you can find your copy here, and let us know how well you think Green’s crash course in To Kill a Mockingbird does offering insight to the work.  Don’t forget to check out part II of the Crash Course here.


  1. ·

    Thanks for the “To Kill a Mockingbird.” My book club is reading it for discussion later this month. I have had opportunities to read it in the years since I read it at the time of writing. This and other social (ie. slavery, black rights, Native American, etc) topics of the 50, 60’s, I have dealt with long ago. And even though I am on the side of rights for everyone, I do not really care to get all that involved again. So, I am happy to have had this synopsis before attending the book club. Thanks.


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