The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behaviour—to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humour and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story, by a young Alabama woman, claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature
In the town of Maycomb, Alabama, lives six-year-old girl named Scout Finch, whose real name is Jean-Louise. Scout has an older brother named Jem and a father called Atticus. Atticus is a lawyer and Scout’s hero. One summer a little boy named Dill comes to town for the season to stay with his aunt. He befriends Jem and Scout and the three of them become quite close.
Jem, Scout and Dill are obsessed with one thing: Boo Radley. Boo is Scout’s neighbour and hasn’t been seen by anyone in years. Terrible rumours are going around about what he’s done, where he is and whether he’s dead or not. The tree kids make it their goal to see Boo Radley and to lure him out of his house despite Atticus’s continuous warnings to leave Boo Radley alone.
The main event in the book is the trial of Tom Robinson, whom Atticus is chosen to represent in trail. Tom is arrested for the rape and battery of Mayella Ewel. In spite of the towns disapproval, Atticus decides to represent Tom. Scout soon notices the change in their town; children taunt them, calling Atticus a “nigger-lover”. In the weeks leading up to the trial, the situation in town becomes more and more tense eventually resulting in the attempted lynching of Tom. It is Scout who is able to stop the men from continuing their endeavours and make sure that Toms makes it to his trial date alive.
However, will Tom be given a fair trial? With racism and prejudice against him, will Atticus be able to convince the jury of Tom’s innocence?
I was surprised to read that To Kill a Mockingbird has rarely been the subject of literary studies. Only 6 times in fact. But then again, I think it’s a pretty straight forward book. Maybe that the subjects discussed in Lee’s book would sooner be discussed in a historical analysis. However, I do want to say some things about this book.
I did enjoy reading it very much as I am incredibly interested in social issues, racism and segregation in the US. It is very interesting to read this book, which was loosely based on Lee’s own life, and learn about how it was to be a young girl in that time. I did go in blind though. I somehow had gotten it into my head that Scout was both black and a boy. It took me a while to catch up. Don’t ask me how I got that idea, I really have no idea.
There are many themes that occur in this book: innocence, coming of age, feminism, discrimination, justice, courage.. you name it. All of which I could probably write a blog about on its own. Besides being interested in the social aspect of the story, I am mostly drawn to the topic of innocence and the similarities between Boo Radley and Tom Robinson.
Both Boo and Tom are thought of as dangerous men. Boo is hidden, Tom is in the centre of attention. Even though both men are not guilty of the crimes that they are accused of, no amount of evidence will change the minds of the townspeople. They are so caught up in their ideas that they have no interest in facts which results in the condemning of not only these men but also their families.
Luckily, this cycle is broken when in the end of the book, the sheriff makes the choice to not arrest Boo for what happened. He learned from his mistakes when he watched as an innocent man was sentenced to death and he was not going to allow that to happen again. He was finally able to look past the prejudice and rumours to create a new path, and to give Boo the second chance that Tom never got.
I find this very interesting. We all know what effect peer pressure can have on a person, which is also one of the themes in this book, but there are several people who don’t give in to what other people would want them to do. We don’t only see this in the sheriff but also in Atticus himself when he decides to defend Tom. Those are the kind of men (and now women get that chance as well) who will bring forth change in the world.
Where would we be without the modern-day Atticusses? We all need to find the courage to stand up for the things that we think are right, even if the rest of the world condemns them. What would the world come to if we wouldn’t? The ethics of this statement is a discussion best saved for another day.
I really did enjoy reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It is amazingly written, very insightful and incredibly interesting. I do think that you must have an interest in this topic to make it through but once you get started it’s almost impossible to stop. To Kill a Mockingbird is on every ‘should have read this’ list and it’s obvious why it’s there.
“I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (..) “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
The mockingbird being the symbol for innocence.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…”