To Kill A Mocking Bird (1960) by Harper Lee is an outstanding classic.
Set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama from 1933-1935, this book is told from the POV of the protagonist six-year-old Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout. Here Scout lives with her older brother Jeremy, better known as Jem and her lawyer father Atticus. Scout and Jem get to know and become friends with a young boy Dill Harris who visits Maycomb with his aunt every summer. The character of Dill is based on fellow writer Truman Capote who was a friend of Lee’s from childhood after he moved in with his aunt in Alabama after his parents’ divorce.
This is an amazing book. It deals with so many important issues and Lee done this in 1960 which was very brave writing. She included racial injustice, class discrimination, gender issues, interracial relationships, lynching, living in a reclusive way, domestic abuse and neighbourhood harassment and bullying among other issues. It is extremely powerful. It is about compassion for other people, standing up for other people and putting yourself in the shoes of people from different backgrounds. Atticus is really an amazing father, very warm and loving and an excellent role model to his children. He teaches his two children to respect people from all backgrounds and you can tell that will help them become the best version they can be of themselves. There is quotes of his that stick in my head, “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.” Beautifully compassionate, really gorgeous quote. Another quote is “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” His advice shows that you need strength to do what you feel is right. Seeing Atticus being filled with both fear and courage but letting courage override his fear to do the right thing for his client Tom Robinson was brilliant. Tom Robinson is a very strong man to be putting up with everything that is happening. It is simply heartbreaking that this statement is so coldly true in the novel and in life, “Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.”
Boo Radley is one of the Finch’s neighbours and I think Lee wrote the gossip and the negativity surrounding his story in the neighbourhood very well. I think she showed very well how gossip and reality are not the same thing here.
Scout is a brilliant character. She is compassion and she is tough. She thinks about things, she likes to do what is right by people and she has good people around her in her father and Calpurnia, the family’s cook and who is like a mother to Scout who are advising her in the right way to be kind to people and also stick up for herself. Scout has a very good heart and her relationships with her brother Jem and friend Dill, who are both cool as well, are lovely to read. She is a feminist and does not always stick to the traditional roles females are expected to take in society because they don’t suit us, they don’t make her happy and good on her.
I think this book is definitely written from the heart and that is why it is so amazing and authentic. I don’t think what Lee wrote here would be pleasing to a lot of people in 1960 or even today unfortunately. But she wrote her truth and in a life imitating art type of way, she showed huge compassion and courage to write this book. She dealt with intersectionality of issues like race, class and gender long before this intersectionality was much talked about. She showed to be different in some small way whatever that may be was ok as long as you weren’t hurting people and that’s an excellent message. This book has so much amazing writing about equality in it and it’s inspiring and brilliant to read. It’s also written amazingly with excellent characters and dialogue and has layer upon layer of the dynamics of life.
Amazing write. A must-read.
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