'To Kill a Mockingbird' Book Club Discussion Questions

This book doesn't lack in stimulating topics

Harper Lee
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Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a classic tale about social and racial relations in 1930s small-town Alabama, centered around the controversial trial of a black man accused of raping a white girl. The life of the town, as well as the lives of Jem and Scout, the children of attorney Atticus Finch who takes on the black man's defense, are brought to a moral head by the trial, which bares and challenges everyone's prejudices and sense of social justice.

If you are involved in a book club or reading group or taking a lit class, the plot and themes of "To Kill a Mockingbird" can provide fodder for deep reflection and spirited discussion. Here are a few questions that can help you get the ball rolling and delve deeper into the story. Spoiler alert!: Be sure to finish the book before reading further.

15 Discussion Questions About 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

  1. Since slavery, race relations in America have been largely defined and played out in the field of criminal justice. Take a look at the alleged crime and trial in the novel: What are the dramatic elements that make it compelling? Why is it such an effective narrative? Does it still resonate today?
  2. One of the book's greatest themes is compassion. Atticus tells the children several times that before judging others, they must "walk in their shoes." What does that mean and is it really possible?
  3. Discuss moments in the book when Atticus, Scout, or Jem attempt to metaphorically "walk in someone else's shoes." How does it change how they view the situations or people at hand?
  4. Talk about Mrs. Merriweather and the group of missionary women. What do they represent in the book and in the life of the town? What do you think about their attitude toward the Mrunas? Do they represent so-called Christian values? How do they represent the concept of compassion and "walking in someone's shoes?"
  5. Discuss the role that compassion plays in social justice and morality. Is compassion just a theoretical construct? How does it shape the story?
  6. How do you think Atticus manages his role as a single parent? What does his defense of Tom Robinson say about him as a man and about his parenting, if anything?
  7. What do you think of Aunt Alexandra? Did your opinion of her change during the book? Discuss her concerns with Atticus' parenting: was she justified?
  8. Talk about the racial attitudes of the town as revealed through the side characters: Why does Calpurnia speak differently around other black people? Why does Mr. Raymond pretend he is drunk to help people cope with his mixed marriage?
  9. Discuss the Ewells and the role of lying and dishonesty in the story. What impact can that have on someone's life and on society as a whole? Conversely, what is the role of honesty and "standing up" both in the novel and in life?
  10. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a literary representation of people dealing with all sorts of judgments and differences. Aptly, at one point Jem describes four kinds of people in Maycomb County: "Our kind of folks don't like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams don't like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the colored folks." Is "otherness" rooted in people? How does our society deal with those differences today?
  11. A side plot to the trial centers around the recluse-outcast Boo Radley and his place in Jem and Scout's imagination and views. Why do they fear Boo? How do their views change and why? Why does Jem cry when the hole in the tree is filled with cement?
  12. At the end of the book, Scout says that telling people Boo Radley committed the murder would have been "sort of like shootin' a mockingbird." What does that mean? What does Boo represent in the book?
  13. How does the trial affect the town? How did it change Jem and Scout? Did it change you?
  14. In the last few lines of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus tells Scout that most people are nice "when you finally see them." What does he mean? Do you agree that most people in the novel are nice after they're "seen"? What about people in general?
  15. Do you know people who are like Mr. Cunnigham, or like Mr. Ewell, or like Atticus? Which character are you?