Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee).

I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was a teenager. I feel that I wasn’t aware enough or old enough to completely understand it, so I re-read the book this month. I had understood just the basic story of the novel, nothing more than that and this book is not at all superficial. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a story set in a small Southern American town, Maycomb, Alabama, and focuses on the Finches’.

It doesn’t seem realistic to give a plot summary here for this novel because I won’t be able to make it as brief. The story is narrated by a six-year-old girl Scout, i.e., Jean Louise, and it takes place approximately over a span of three summers. Scout Finch lives with her older brother Jem, her widowed lawyer father Atticus, and their maid Calpurnia. Scout, her brother, and their neighbor’s kid Dill, who lives in Mississippi, spend the summer having fun before school starts. They live a completely normal life. As kids do, they complain about school, adults confuse them, and they let their imaginations run wild when it comes to the Radley house, especially Arthur Radley, they believe the rumors about him and build a picture of him in their heads with such information.

When the court appoints Atticus Finch as a lawyer to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. Scout and Jem are harassed and taunted by their peers, neighbors, and extended family. They don’t want Atticus fighting the case for Tom, Scout even asks her father about this, and he explains that he is doing the right thing. The mindset of kids is very fixed; they see everything and everyone in terms of good and bad. The people around Scout that she thought were good prove otherwise through their behavior. She starts questioning her understanding of people, and in a way, Tom’s case is like an end of innocence for Scout, Jem, and Dill.

We come to realize that the people of the town are deeply prejudiced. Some of them are extremely racist. Even for Scout, discrimination against blacks is somewhat normalized before she starts to understand how wrong it is. Even when Atticus successfully proves to the court that Tom couldn’t have hurt Mayella because he has no use of his left arm. The jury is made up of white men with the exception of just one member, still, Tom is found guilty. Tom is shot and dies when he tries to escape the Sheriff’s custody. The racist prejudices are normalized and ingrained in people that there is no question of right or wrong to it. The prejudices apart from racism especially in Scout’s context are sexism and classism, which come into the story.

The main theme of the novel remains the morality of people. To put it simply, it is a battle between good and evil. Atticus is highly moralistic; he has a strong sense of right and wrong. He tries to ingrain this quality in his children. He tells Scout that you have to think from the other person’s perspective too. He doesn’t back down even when everyone is against him because he knows what he is doing must be done. Like I said before, Scout sees things in a very black-and-white manner; she is influenced by what she hears and sees. The narration does come across with a hint of innocence since Scout is six. It gave the story an evolving perspective, I felt. Scout’s understanding and experiences of her society shift during the story’s course.

To Kill a Mocking has a strong sense of morality at the center of its story. The characters are well-written and slightly unconventional. The hero of the story is Atticus Finch; he is not a hero in a traditional sense due to his physical traits, but he is a hero because of his values. I am glad I re-read this book. I realized how many things had gone completely over my head the last time. The beginning was a little slow with all the descriptions that turned out to be necessary for the setting of the story. Overall, the book maintains a good pace. It is a great book. It did get too much during some parts, and I had to put it away for a while. This is a book everyone should read.

*Click on the book cover above to get a copy.

Author: Aarti Athavle

Daydreamer - Writer - Bibliophile

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