Mrs Dubose and the Camelias

This sounds like the name of a band.
It’s not (I don’t think…) it’s a reference to chapter 11 of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, in which the antaganistic, crumbly old Mrs Dubose from down the road forces poor Jem to read Ivanhoe (and such like) to her as she dribbles her way through the sticky Maycomb afternoons.

Once you get into Part 2 of the novel, when the trial of Tom Robinson begins to dominate the narrative, you’ll forget all about the funny little goings-on of Part 1. The rabid Tim Johnson, lolloping his way down the road, the summer games with Dill and adventures into the Radley territory and, indeed, Mrs. Dubose and her camelias… these will all seem like minor, insignificant happenings, in comparison with the drama of Tom Robinson’s trial.

So let’s pause before we embark on the heady adventures of Part 2, to reflect on why Part 1 is so important. Because it is, actually.

The themes that are explored in these little stories are exactly those that Harper Lee will explore in the rest of the book. The prejudice against Boo Radley that we see in Part 1 will re-emerge as the prejudice against Tom Robinson (and Mayella Ewell) in Part 2. The empathy that Atticus tells Scout is so important in Part 1 (‘You never really know a person… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it’) is the same empathy required of Jem as he learns more about the trial in Part 2. The courage of Mrs. Dubose in Part 1 is the same courage required of Atticus as he defends Tom Robinson in Part 2. It’s all very clever, you see.

Have a look at this:

Mrs Dubose - themes

It shows some of the themes prevalent in chapter 11.

Re-read chapter 11, and make notes on moments where one of the themes seems to be important.

Use your notes, and the diagram, to answer the following essay question:

How does Harper Lee use the story of Mrs Dubose in chapter 11 to explore some of the novel’s key themes?

Due: Monday 14th October

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LITB3: Ode to Evening

β€œFor Collins, nature provides more food for the spirit than food for the body.”
How far do you agree with this view of Ode to Evening?

1. Personification of Evening as a presence, a person, a living Being.
2. The poem is a hymn, a prayer, a petition to this presence.
3. It suggests the impossibility (or perhaps the difficulties) of capturing and securing a lasting experience of union with this presence.
4. Edmund Burke’s concept of ‘the sublime’ is very helpful in understanding Collins’ spiritual quest: it is a journey in which we experience, simultaneously, both the disturbing, unsettling effect of evening and its calming, soothing presence.

Compare this poem with: Tintern Abbey; Paradise Lost.

Homework for A2 English Literature: Brideshead Revisited (Section A)

Here is another one of those essay things for you to do.

“‘Brideshead Revisited’ is a novel about death: its inevitability, its finality, and, ultimately, the ways in which we seek to escape it.”

To what extent do you agree with this view of the novel?

In my inbox by 8:30 on Monday morning, please, if you want me to mark it in the bucolic pastoral idyll that is East Grinstead.