A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
Title: To Kill A Mockingird
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Arrow Books
Pub Date: 24th June 2010
Many people would have read To Kill a Mockingbird whilst they were at school. I wasn’t one of them (we read Lord of the Flies instead); so when this came up as a book club read I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the classic. Now I’ve read it, I’m not sure how I feel about not studying this at school – part of me believes I would have gotten much more into English if had I studied it; part of me thinks I wouldn’t have appreciated the story as much as I do now.
There are so many things I loved about To Kill a Mockingbird; I don’t quite know where to start. By showing the world from a child’s point of view, Lee covers numerous difficult themes in an unbiased manner.
Scout and Jem’s childhood innocence is charming; as they grow up, the children are confronted with ‘evil’ acts and must incorporate it into their understanding of the world. At first, they try to separate the two, but there is no such thing as good or evil – we have both good and bad qualities, it’s whether you are able to appreciate the good and understand the bad.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Within the book, hatred, prejudice and ignorance poses a threat to innocence; be it through the changes in the children’s morals or the destruction of those who choose to stay ‘good’.
The “mockingbird” comes to represent the idea of innocence. Atticus (who I am completely in love with!) tries to protect and support the innocents who cannot support themselves, regardless of their social station or colour.
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but . . . sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Differences in social status are depicted through the complicated hierarchy of Maycomb. These divisions, which make up so much of the adult world, are shown to be both irrational and destructive through the children’s eyes.
“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
I often find books covering difficult subjects such as prejudice to be slightly heavy-handed and preachy. To Kill A Mockingbird is not one of these books. In a fluid prose that makes for excellent storytelling, Lee creates a balance between sadness and happiness; racism and equality, injustice and redemption.
To Kill a Mockingbird easily jumps into my top 10 books of all time, and one that I will definitely read again.
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”