Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird
Hello there. How have you all been? After abandoning writing for so long, I’m finally back, and this time, with something new! If you’ve read my previous articles, you probably know that I have an incurable fever of always talking about/ recommending reading. Well in the past year, I’ve got the time and opportunity to read so much more, and it has been most refreshing. And here’s the thing – every time I read something new, I just cannot shut up about it. I’ve had long discussions with my friends and my teachers, pondered about a line, a quote, a paragraph for so long, and read stuff that keeps me up at night and freaks the living daylights out of me.
So after almost a year of discovering new authors and genres, understanding and accepting my reading habits, psycho-analyzing my favourite books, and plummeting into an existential crisis, I’ve decided to get back to writing, and I want to start it with something I’m the most passionate about – books! I will simply be talking to you about books I read and what I think of them. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! So you can just grab your favourite drink and get comfortable as we go ahead 🙂
It took me so long to figure out which book I should pick up first, but then it hit me, and it was only obvious – it had to be “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. Not only was this one of the greatest pieces of literature I’ve ever read, it was also a part of the syllabus for my Elective English class, so I got the chance to read this book cover to cover with a very close group of people.
To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Pages: 309 (Penguin Publishers)
Genre: Fiction, Bildungsroman (coming of age), Southern Gothic Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Racism and racial slurs, mentions of rape, violence, abuse
“To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee was published in 1960. Since its release, it has risen to immense fame, slowly becoming a part of school syllabus initially in America, and eventually, around the globe.
In the novel, we follow the journey of the protagonists, Jem and Scout, the children of a white lawyer defending a black man charged with rape in a society steeped in prejudice. The children too, are exposed to the harshest levels of prejudice in their own hometown, their safe little world. We also delve into various themes like friendship, parenting, courage, growth, and innocence – or the loss of it – throughout the novel.
“To kill a mockingbird” essentially means harming/hurting someone innocent- be it a bird, an animal, or a person. Throughout the novel, we encounter more than just one Mockingbird with their individual stories going on simultaneously and experience their battle against society and themselves. These characters do justice to the title of the novel.
The novel is set in Maycomb, Alabama, during 1933-1935. The historical context proves to be very important as it showcases a society where deep-rooted racism against blacks was at its highest, cruelest form. Through the novel, we deal with a wide variety of opinions on the same and witness their lives as they slowly live off in the era of The Great Depression.
Jem and Scout’s upbringing
What makes this book so interesting is that we view the world from the eyes of two children, who have been brought up in a very open and forward household by their father, Atticus Finch, and their black caregiver, Calpurnia. The children’s upbringing is constantly disapproved of by their relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers, and people who supposedly follow the word of God. While the children have borne the brunt of it since the beginning, things turn out to be especially difficult as Atticus takes up the case of Tom Robinson, who is charged with the rape of a white girl, much to the disapproval of the town.
The story is narrated by six-year-old Scout (Jean Louise). Since she is only a child, she finds the absurd bigotry of adults towards racial differences absolutely ridiculous. With an unbiased lens, she asks questions to herself, the people around her, and her readers; questions adults are too afraid to even think of. There is a fine dose of humor involved as our little outspoken narrator deals with such occurrences.
Growth and the loss of innocence
This is a coming-of-age story where Jem and Scout, along with their friend Dill, begin on a blank slate and we follow their journey towards mental growth and understanding. The children feel an array of emotions, like confusion, disappointment, grief, betrayal, and plain disbelief. The main reason why this book is still considered a classic could easily be its relevance. All the themes mentioned are looked at with a strong satire.
The growth of the children is also aided by another important character, Boo Radley. The children are so intrigued by him, and naturally so – Boo, their neighbor hasn’t come out of his house in 35 years. They try numerous ways to get him to come out, often being caught and reprimanded. Incidents regarding Boo cause a shift of perspective in the children, and they learn a great deal about a person’s thoughts and emotions, and how gravely society impacts them.
As for Atticus Finch, I’m sure everyone who has read the book has idolized Atticus in one way or another- as a lawyer, as a father, or as a person. A man firm on his morals and principles, Atticus will go to any length to stick by them. On many occasions, it has been difficult for him to do so, but that doesn’t stop him. He believes for him to look his children in the eye, he must first stay true to what he teaches them. One of the many things he has said that has stuck with me, the line- “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience” always makes me question my own thoughts and beliefs. Atticus’s parenting, his way of thinking, staying true to his conscience, and his determination on helping Tom no matter what make him everybody’s hero.
Quotes from the book
Here are a few other quotes from the book that have left a deep impact on the readers:
- “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”
- “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing”
- “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.”
- “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.”
- “Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.”
- “I wanted you to see what real courage is… It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
- “It’s not time to worry yet…” (this always tears me up for some reason)
- “Atticus, he was real nice…” “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
- “Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him.”
- “There are some men in this world who are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.”
- “Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in.”
- “But sometimes, the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of- oh of your father”
Personally, this book has been such a roller coaster for me. We get into the minds of the townsfolk, their take on the whole trial, the analogy of them before and after the verdict, discussions on law, the basic functioning of the society, and the children’s reaction to the case, all through the eyes of the now 13-year-old Jem and 9-year-old Scout.
However, the plot twist threw me completely off-guard. The final pages of the book, and the feeling that came with it- it was all surreal for me. All 10 batchmates of mine had different reactions to the ending, and the whole book, but we knew one thing for sure – we won’t be reading anything like this for a long time.
I believe this book is just so well-done. It makes stark comments on the blind racism people so often tend to follow without even questioning it, just because “that’s the way it has always been”. Harper Lee has done an exceptional job displaying society in the rawest form. Through Atticus, we are also taught that invalidating or ignoring a child’s emotions and thoughts is never going to be the right option. Instead, it is shown that what we often redeem “unimportant” has the ability to shake our entire belief system. Another thing I loved about the book was that at the end, Lee made it about the theme and the symbols the book stands for, not about the characters or an individual.
I highly recommend this book to everybody, this is one of those books you must read at least once in your lifetime. Also, try not to stop reading just after a few pages. I have a little confession to make here – I had actually begun reading this book a few years ago, but I stopped after the very first page because “there were too many names”. Yep. I was dumb, so I’m just saying, stick around. Not that I’m complaining though, I believe I could take it in a lot better than I could have at a younger age. When I finished reading it, I realized it was the best decision to pick it up in the first place (and also to sign up for Elective pls I’ve met the best people there).
Well, that was my take on the book, I’d definitely give it a 10/10. Hope you had fun reading this article! I’ll try to be more active here from now on. You can all leave your thoughts in the comments below, or catch up with me on Instagram @_priyanshi_1346.
Okay, I’ll be off now, take care!
Keep reading my blogs for more!