Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Title: To Kill a MockingbirdBook Review - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Publisher: J. B. Lippincott & Co.

Genre: Bildungsroman, Historical Fiction

First Publication: 1960

Language: English

Major Characters: Scout Finch, Atticus Finch, Jem Finch, Arthur Radley, Mayella Ewell, Aunt Alexandra, Bob Ewell, Calpurnia (housekeeper), Tom Robinson, Miss Maudie Atkinson, Judge John Taylor, Dill Harris, Heck Tate, Stephanie Crawford

Setting Place: The fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression

Theme: Community and Convention, Female Sexuality and Friendship, Faith, Suffering, and God’s Will, Science and Superstition, Justice and Judgment

Narrator: First person


Book Summary: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A novel that explores the tragedy of racism in the 1930s and the dramatics of the ‘Great Depression’, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a tale that infuses humour and sorrow into a touching story that lives on eternally in the minds of the readers. Set in a town that has its roots in a history of prejudice, violence and hypocrisy, the story follows the lives of Scout and Jem Finch as they come of age and experience the discrimination that floods their society. They watch their father (a lawyer) struggle for the justice of a black man who is charged with the rape of a white girl.

‘Shoot all the bjuejays you want, if you can hit’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’, is the lawyer’s advice to his children as he fights for justice for an innocent. The mockingbird is synonymous with the real life black man. His father is trying to prove his innocence to the people who are heavily steeped in race and class discrimination. This anti-racist novel deals with the harsh truths of the prejudiced minds of Deep South in the 1930s while incorporating genuine good-natured humour that gives the readers a lot to laugh about. A true epitome of southern writing, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is testimony to the true struggles of those who were discriminated racially, through the eyes of two teenagers witnessing their father’s struggle against it all.

Lee focuses on several aspects of the racism that was rampant in the time of the story and the effects of ‘The Great Depression’ and its impact on the southern people. The combination of a genuine story-line, intricately woven characters, blunt truths and the warmest humour makes this novel a one-of-a-kind experience.


Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is an unforgettable novel by Nelle Harper Lee. It was first published in 1960 and won straight the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. The next year, it was made into an Academy Award winning film. Gain the fame, it was translated into 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. It told the universal themes of race, gender, prejudice, racism, cruelty, hate, courage, family, kindness through the point of view of a smart young girl, Scout Finch. It was beautifully written and a classic with two part and 31 chapters.

Harper Lee’s 1961 Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of a 6 year-old girl and her brother growing up in a southern small-town in the 1930s. In an environment steeped in racism, and rife with inequality and preconceptions of all kinds. This southern Gothic Bildungsroman contains autobiographical elements of the author’s own life, growing up in Monroeville, Alabama as a tomboy, where her own father was a lawyer and her childhood friend, Truman Capote, turned out to be the character Dill in the story.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. – Atticus Finch”

The story started in early 1930s of Maycomb, Alabama where lived Atticus Finch, a widower and a lawyer who tries to get justice for everyone, rose two children, Jeremy “Jem” Atticus Finch and Jean Louise “Scout” Finch; their black maid, Calpurnia, and the neighbours who had unique characters as well. The folks had received education but the majority of those were white and still felt that they were superior over black.

Once, a black man named Tom Robinson accused of raping white woman, Mayella Ewell. Atticus was selected to defend him since the folks realized that only him who had the ability to empathise and the courage to do so. As expected from him, he tried anyway to help Tom even though he and his family got hatred from the neighbourhood. One of Scout’s cousin even said that her father was a nigger lover and he just ruining the family of what he was doing. Atticus told his children to not be worry and said that no matter what anybody says, don’t let them get their goat. Atticus knew the town was talking and still he needed to explain to his kids why he continued to fight for the black man.

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”

As the time went by, Atticus presented a more plausible evidence that Tom did not attacked Mayella but it was her father who did, still Tom was convicted but later he was killed by the guard for escaping from the prison. He left a wife with three children in the cruel society of them. It broke Atticus but still he tried his best for him. Atticus notably told his children that it was a sin to kill a mockingbird, since mockingbirds did nothing except making music for people.

The pacing and the storytelling of the book vary with the events recounted. Much of the book describes with obvious love the town of Maycomb and its environs and people. In these lengthy sections, which are valuable in themselves and for setting the stage, the book moves as sleepily as a hot summer day.

The storytelling is much quicker and more dramatic when Atticus Finch is called upon to defend Tom Robinson, an African American man accused of raping a 19-year old woman who lives with her poor rural family. The trial, its build-up, and its aftermath are recounted sharply and with suspense. With the end of the trial and the unfortunate following event, the book becomes a mix of the descriptive style of place and Southern Gothic as Scout and Jem have a harrowing adventure the night of Halloween involving a large local home and one of its inhabitants whom they have never seen.

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

To Kill a Mockingbird is an amazing novel. It is so rich in themes, so full of wisdom. But at the same time it has this subtlety. It is a challenging book. But not one that is difficult to read. To tell its story in the way this 6 year-old girl has seen it unfold, that’s been a brilliant idea. It presents the reader with an innocent view at a world that has lost its innocence. But not completely. Never completely, as long as there are people that stand up for themselves, and for others. As long as there are people that have the courage to do what they know is the right thing to do.

The book presents many challenges to its characters. And it challenges its readers to question themselves. To question their views on people and the world. There are so many things that influence the way we see people. That influence the way we see the world. Sometimes it is hard to keep an open mind. Sometimes a book comes along that makes it hard to put into words how much it means to you. How much it says about you. And about us.


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