To Kill a Mockingbird: Viewing Guide

This is a viewing guide for those who wish to see an overall evaluation of the play, as well as references to the filmmakers technique in making the play.

The entrance of Scout emphasizes that she is spontaneous and she is quite playful throughout the novel. The entrance of Dill when he is seen from a high angle as a small figure almost lost among the leaves of a cabbage patch symbolizes that everyone looks down on him, and he is lost in his life, and he tries to cover it up with stories. When we hear Jem’s voice coming from the treehouse before we ever see him represents the role that Jem plays in Scout’s life, as her conscience and her older brother.

            In the film of To Kill a Mockingbird, the camera makes you aware of a particular character’s point of view when Scout and Jem go to Helen Robinson’s house after Tom is killed at prison and Bob Ewell appears and walks around the car looking inside at them. You can only see from Jem’s view, increasing suspense and the “horror”. This also occurs during the time when Jem, Scout, and Dill go onto the Radley property to get a look at Boo. You can only see from Scout/Dill’s view while Mr. Radley’s shadow passes over Jem on the porch.

            In the film, location seems most important in the moments of suspense, such as when the children go to the Radley Place in the middle of the night, and when Bob Ewell is looking in on them in the car. Location sets the mood of the situation and makes you feel as if you are there, or helps you to see everything that is going on.

The omissions that might be included as concessions to length of the film are how Mr. Avery and Uncle Jack are excluded from the film because they take nearly unimportant roles. Some of the minor details, such as how Ms. Duboise’s morphine addiction and Tom Robinson was shot seventeen times, were omitted from the movie because they would lead to more questions in the movie, hence more questions.

            I agree with some viewers that have observed that the film concentrates on the story’s two main strands, Boo and Tom Robinson, and how it weaves them into a tighter narrative. This is because it gives the story backbone, and makes all of the events in the book seemed to have a purpose, no matter how small. If the story had not concentrated on at least one of these two stands, the plot would fall apart. And the purpose of this novel and film would become null and void.

            The objects that appear behind the opening credits all relate to the novel and are linked to the story symbolically or thematically. The pocket watch is used symbolically to show how time flies throughout life. The pearl necklace is referring to pure hearts and innocence, and is a symbolic reference. The marbles relate to how life is left to fate, and you can’t control it, and is a symbolic reference. The harmonica in the opening credits is a symbol of how Boo cares about Scout and Jem, and leaves things for them in his tree hole. The whistle represents evil in the world, and is symbolic to the novel, and film. The child’s drawing of a bird symbolizes the Mockingbird in the novel and the film. In the ending of the opening credits, when the child rips the bird, it symbolizes the killing of a mockingbird, a sin.

            The nostalgic music and the humming of a child creates a mood by lulling you into a sense of security and when you were just a child. The music reminds you of a simpler time, when things were much less complicated and scary. The humming of the child represents young innocence in the world, and how it can alter anything, as is shown with the reaction from the viewers.

Part II

            The filmmakers use lighting to heighten suspense by making a scary or suspenseful very dark, and make the characters move around and you are unable to fully see what is happening. Music is loud and forceful when filmmakers want to make a scene suspenseful. This is still true to today’s movie making. Sound effects are used to make the audience notice something in particular like how as loud noises are directing an audience to a scream from a person, or a gunshot going off somewhere. Camera work is used by filmmakers to help an audience to isolate a person or people, or even a thing. This focuses the attention to a singular or many objects that are important, or are necessary in understanding the film.

            The scene at the Radley Porch is not entirely as suspenseful as it was back then. We still feel a little suspense, but we have been ruined due to graphic horror movies, and the like. When Mr. Radley’s shadow passes over Jem, we feel stunned, just as the audience of long ago did as well. All of the audience can relate to one time or another when we were forced, or even chose, to face the unknown and our fears, so we feel compassion to those in the film. 

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1 Comment
  1. Posted December 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Fantastic article, i was having trouble with understanding the movie, but now it is clear.
    thank you so much

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