To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Historical Fiction

To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a MockingbirdHarper Lee; Grand Central Publishing 1988WorldCat

Scout Finch is a six-year-old girl in late 1930’s Alabama. She, her older brother Jem, and their friend Dill have innocent, wonderful summers. They wonder about the recluse next door, Boo Radley. Scout tells the story of a time in their lives when they are growing up. Scout vividly describes the people in her neighborhood, going to school, and living in that environment.

This book covers three summers. During that time their lives are changed. Their father, Atticus, is assigned to defend a negro who has been accused of raping a white woman. Atticus has to fight the system. Scout and Jem learn that life and truth have many layers. Throughout the story, the elusive Boo Radly is a everpresent figure. How Scout, Jem, Boo, and Atticus intertwine the many lessons and stories is intriguing and very well written.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those stories that lingers. The trial is so frustrating for the reader, believing Atticus and Tom Robinson, the young black man accused of the rape. But this is the racist South. Tom Robinson is innocent and Atticus knows it. Atticus also knows he will be lucky to keep the man from the electric chair since the girl testifies against Tom. She is too frightened of her father to do anything against his rulings. Author Lee paints a vivid picture of the environment and culture of the time of the story. It takes very little for the reader to sink right into the tale.

Harper Lee makes people look at the way we view each other. Boo Radly is the neighborhood “dummy”, the oddball, the person that kids dare each other about. But without Boo Radly Scout’s story would have ended much differently. The reader knows from the beginning that Tom Robinson is innocent. The reader also knows that because of when he lived and the attitudes in the area of the South where he lived, he was going to be convicted. The best Atticus could hope for was a lighter charge and sentence that could be appealed.

Perception of people is not reality. Just because a man is white or educated or rich doesn’t mean he is better than a woman or a black man or a mentally deficient person. Tom Robinson is one of the finest men in the book, but he isn’t treated that way by many of the white adults in the town. When Atticus takes the case he knows he can’t win. He also knows if he doesn’t take Tom’s case, Tom wouldn’t survive the trial, let alone live to appeal any decision.

It is narrated from Scout’s point of view, so the naivitee and wonderment prevail throughout the story. This narrative makes the book even more powerful. Writing To Kill a Mockingbird though a young girl’s perspective gives it an added layer. Scout is an innocent who begins to learn that the world isn’t always fair. Her view of the happenings add a poignancy to the novel and make it more real.

This book is often assigned for high school or college reading. Do not let that deter you. If you’ve never read it, this is an absolute must read. Enjoy. You won’t be sorry.

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