Author: Harper Lee
Rating: 5/5 stars
'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'
Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel - a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice and hypocrisy.
After a re-read I’m finally ready to put my admiration into words. Revisiting this novel is like going home, because if you read To Kill a Mockingbird once, the characters and Maycomb County will stay with you and they welcome you home should you decide to look for them again.
To Kill a Mockingbird is everything; a book of important life lessons, a book about equality, friendship, hot nostalgic summer evenings and fascinating neighbours. It is also a story about fear and understanding.
Harper Lee manages to show us the cruelty of the world through children’s eyes and with their reaction to injustice she reminds us that innocence is never truly lost.
When Atticus, father of two, must defend an innocent black man at court, who was accused of raping a white woman, his children are not cushioned against the cataclysm their father’s – otherwise very noble – actions start.
Scout, the child narrator, is close to my heart not only because she’s a tomboy, like I once was, but because she’s an observer like I am. She pays attention and even though there are many things she doesn’t understand at first, she puts the puzzle together eventually. Of course, Atticus’ wise words and examples help her little mind to process what’s happening around them, but to truly understand everything, she has to ask questions and she never stops doing that. I love her for her inquisitiveness, for her thirst for knowledge.
Jem, her brother, is few years older, therefore he can grasp the gravity of the happenings in connection with Tom Robinson’s trial. Reality hits him hard and he tries to make sense of people’s behaviour, without much luck. His helplessness angers him and his disappointment in humanity motivates him to become a better adult one day. One of my favourite things about this novel really, is that the children represent hope for a better future.
And then there’s Atticus… Don’t even start me on Atticus. He’ll always be my favourite father figure ever. Many people in the book don’t like how he raises his children, they think he gives them too much freedom, but that’s just the point; he lets them experience things on their own, lets them learn about their surroundings, about people on their own account. He doesn’t abandon Scout and Jem, though: he guides them, sits down and talks to them after a long day, helps them understand what they saw, what they heard. I’d like to be as good a parent as he is when the time comes.
As for the trial and Tom Robinson’s case, it is a very sad business. You’ll see humanity at its worst in this novel and it will start you thinking how many times all this actually happened back then. But the book leaves us with confidence; confidence in the next generation, confidence in us and in our children. If we teach them right, the world will become a better place.
I will always consider To Kill a Mockingbird as one of the best pieces in literature, I’ll give it to my children and my children’s children so they can be richer with the thoughts the book will generate in them.