To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
For the few people out there who haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, I have to say that there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review. I also have to confess that I did not read this novel back in high school, the way most people did, and only recently have remedied that situation. It lives up to its reputation. It’s great!
I was surprised that the novel wasn’t about race relations, or at least racial prejudice wasn’t the primary focus. It is a story about a man, Atticus Finch, who tries to live his life with integrity and does his best to provide an example for his children of someone who is “the same in his house as he is on the public streets.”
The story centers around the case of a black man who is wrongly accused of rape, but the emphasis is on Atticus’ decision to risk his life, his reputation, and his family’s safety by accepting this case and working hard to provide a good defense for the man. I wasn’t surprised that the man, Tom Robinson, was falsely accused by Bob Ewell, someone who lived his life with very low standards. But I was surprised that the defense Atticus provided involved revealing that Tom had a crippled arm. Didn’t the people know that? The woman he was accused of raping had seen him repeatedly. At least she should have noticed his arm. It was as if the people of that town couldn’t see Tom, as if he was invisible. Hatred, discrimination, and abuse are aspects of prejudice we all know about. But ignoring someone’s existence is a form that in some ways is worse than the others.
To Kill a Mockingbird is written from the point of view of Scout, Atticus’ ten year old daughter. She’s a tomboy who loves to get in fights and go on adventures with her brother Jem and her friend Dill. The book covers a great many aspects of growing up in a small Alabama town in the 1950’s that have nothing to do with race, but that theme is always hanging over the story. Scout and Jem have lost their mother and have been raised by Calpurnia, their African-American cook. When Atticus’ sister, Alexandra, comes to live with them, she suggests getting rid of Calpurnia. But Atticus tells Alexandra that Calpurnia is, “a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things they way they are.”
I recommend that anyone who didn’t read this book in high school should read it now and anyone who did, should reread it.
Steve Lindahl , author of Motherless Soul
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