To Kill A Mockingbird: Empathy and Compromise

To Kill a Mockingbird is a story about a young girl growing up in a small town in the South the 1930's.  Jean Louise Finch is the narrator and central character of the story.  Everyone calls her Scout.  The story begins when Scout is 6 years old but she tells us the story as an adult looking back on her childhood.  Because this story is narrated by an adult woman about her life as a young girl, this story is a good way to reflect on childhood as an adult.  Through Scout's eyes, we learn a lot about race, racism and justice in the American South in the early 20th Century.  But we can also appreciate even more universal themes of growing up, education, gender, fear, courage and character. 

Two Loons On Golden Pond (video)

On Golden Pond was an award winning film from 1981 starring Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda.  Norman, a retired professor, and his wife Ethel, summered on Golden Pond, a lake in New Hampshire.  In this scene, Ethel and Norman take the canoe out for a ride on the lake and see the loons.  A motor boat comes rather close to the loons and their canoe and both Norman and Ethel tell them to "buzz off."

Strawberry Picking On Golden Pond (video)

On Golden Pond was an award winning film starring Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda.  In this scene, Norman goes strawberry picking, gets lost and comes home empty handed.  Ethel realizes that he's having cognitive problems. You can use this to talk about how Norman feels embarrassed, angry and disappointed in himself.  But you can also note how Ethel feels the loss but reassures him that he's still the same old crabby Norman and that she loves him. She uses humor and calls him her "knight in shining armor."

Tradition: Roles in Society

This story brings to mind the opening scenes of  "Fiddler on the Roof" where we're reintroduced to Tevye the dairyman and the character of the Fiddler.  It establishes the central tension in the story between tradition and change.  The video in this segment includes the traditional roles of men, women, and children in the fictional town of Anatevka. Use this story as a trigger to talk about traditional occupations and stereotypes in the small Russian village of Anatevka.  What do we recall about our childhood memories of adulthood?  What can we remember about the roles of men and women in our family stories?  How have roles, especially gender roles, changed?

The Character of the Fiddler (video)

This story recalls the figure of the Fiddler in the opening and closing scenes of the film, setting up the idea that our existence is precarious, like a Fiddler on the roof, many decisions we make in life -- what to do, whom to marry, how to raise children, and so forth -- are very difficult and consequential.

Miracle of Miracles (video)

This story begins by framing what we mean by 'miracle.'  It reminds us that sometimes we refer to something extraordinary that causes wonder and astonishment. Miracles can be amazing, and even inexplicable by normal standards.  And yet, a miracle need not refer to a super-natural event;  in fact, miracles can be everyday occurrences with extraordinary meaning or significance.  Falling in love, for example, is not uncommon.  And yet, it can change our lives.

In the story of Tzeitel and Motel in The Fiddler on the Roof, it was a miracle they were able to be married at all.

The Story of Fiddler on the Roof

The narrative in this story helps participants recall the basic plot of "Fiddler on the Roof."  We're reintroduced to Tevye the dairyman and the character of the Fiddler himself.  Then we meet Tevye's daughters who are all seeking partners.  And we remember, experiencing a wide range of emotions, as each daughter struggles to find their way as individuals, respecting more (or less) the norms and expectations of their family and community.

It ends with the song called "Anatevka" sung by villagers as they pack their things and leave their village and traditions behind.