By Harper Lee
Genre – Classic, Historical fiction
Cliché choice of book? I couldn’t agree more. To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that has been read by a lot of people, whether as an assignment in school or because a friend suggested it. Personally, I don’t know why I didn’t read it a long time ago. This book had been suggested to me countless times and I finally decided to see what all the hype was about. Spoiler: The book does live up to my expectations.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a book set in the 1930s in the southern United States. It describes primarily, the adventures of two children – Scout and Jem Finch as they go through life and learn about human nature. Their father Atticus, is a lawyer and is known to the entire town as an extremely honorable man. He’s one of the role models in the story because of his values and principles. The story mainly revolves around Atticus’s decision to defend a black man, Tom Robinson accused of raping a white girl, and how the lives of the Finch family change due to his decision.
The story is narrated from the point of view of Scout Finch, in the first person. The book spans three years of her life from the age of 6 to 9. Various events take place during this time, and as the story moves forward, we see Scout and Jem mature through the years. The change is so subtle, that the reader doesn’t really notice it, but it is present nonetheless. For instance, in the first year, their pastime is mainly playing in the yard and recreating the life of their neighbor Boo Radley. However, by the third year, they start attending Tom’s trial with all the other adults of their town. Harper Lee also shows us certain irrationalities of the adult attitude as seen through the eyes of a child. She portrays how at the end of the day no matter how civilized we are, no matter how learned we are, we are still human beings with the basic flaws that all humans have – prejudice, hypocrisy, and violence.
The story has multiple themes which Harper Lee brings out by introducing various characters. Atticus Finch and Mrs. Dubose are symbols of bravery. Scout’s teacher Miss Gates is representative of hypocrisy. The list goes on, and a lot of characters are introduced at various points in the book, all of them unique and interesting. A character I found interesting was Mr. Underwood (Atticus was a bit naïve in my opinion). He doesn’t have much of a role in the book, however. He openly admits that he has a dislike for blacks but he still defends Tom’s right to a fair trial and this is what I admired about him. A human being can have his/her own personal prejudices against someone or something but shouldn’t allow those biases to come in the way of the law.
Personally, I found the book to be a very accurate representation of human nature and society. The fact that it was a young girl narrating the story made for a different sort of reading. Young children notice little details that adults tend to overlook. A child’s analysis of racism and her inability to grasp its meaning is a message to the readers, a message that is important even in today’s world. Harper Lee is indirectly advocating the need for a free and fair world, where everyone is treated equally.
Finally, I’d like to say just this. To Kill a Mockingbird is an extraordinary book. It has received countless accolades and rightly so. I’m not going to rate this book right now like I’ve done in my previous reviews, because I think this book goes a lot deeper than what I’ve understood. I feel like I’d need to be a lot wiser to be able to fully grasp the hidden messages in the book. However, it does make for an interesting read and I’d not hesitate before recommending it to anyone.
A quote from the book which I found interesting – “It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”