To Kill a Mockingbird
Warner Books Edition, 1982 (1960)
Harper Lee’s masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird revolves around the childhood of Scout and Jem Finch. Scout recalls the most important events of her life in those years: the quiet dignity of her father Atticus, her adventures with Jem and her friend Dill to sneak a peek at Boo Radley, and most of all the trial of Tom Robinson. Atticus must defend the innocent black man from charges of raping a white woman in the Alabama of the 1930's. In one summer, she grows up.
This novel has been challenged and banned from school libraries many times (it’s #41 on the top 100 most challenged), for many reasons, but the racism is hard to ignore. It’s uncomfortable to read, but necessary to the story. Scout’s small town, both good (like Boo and Maudie) and the bad (the bigots and racists), is revealed to us through the innocence of a child’s eye. It’s a clever device by Lee to use that innocence to make an important point.
When I first read this book, I was a teenager. I related to Scout more than the other characters. Now as an adult I relate more to the adults, even though the point of view is Scout’s.
Atticus Finch, although not the narrator, is the hero of the novel. He is a quiet, honest man, who uses his mind and his words to fight for justice. After the children have their eyes opened to the injustice in the world, they are comforted by the neighbour, Maudie: "...there are some men in this world who are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father is one of them." He is a good foil for all the evil in the novel. At the beginning of the story, Atticus tells Scout:
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
This is an important statement. Throughout the book, we walk around in many of the character’s skin: a new teacher, a poor farmer’s son, a recluse, an accused black man and his pathetic accuser.
There are so many memorable characters is this book. Although it is character driven, there is plenty of action. It’s a page turner and is truly a classic for all time.
*This was a Classic Book Club selection and also a Something About Me Challenge pick.