To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: J. B. Lippincott & Co.
Publication Date: July 11, 1960
Genre: Southern Gothic
Cost: Rs 99 (Kindle edition)
A novel that explores the tragedy of racism in the 1930s and the dramatics of the 'Great Depression', Harper Lee’s 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is a tale that infuses humour and sorrow into a touching story that lives on eternally in the minds of the readers. Set in a town that has its roots in a history of prejudice, violence and hypocrisy, the story follows the lives of Scout and Jem Finch as they come of age and experience the discrimination that floods their society. They watch their father (a lawyer) struggle for the justice of a black man who is charged with the rape of a white girl.
'Shoot all the bjuejays you want, if you can hit’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’, is the lawyer’s advice to his children as he fights for justice for an innocent. The mockingbird is synonymous with the real life black man. His father is trying to prove his innocence to the people who are heavily steeped in race and class discriminations. This anti-racist novel deals with the harsh truths of the prejudiced minds of Deep South in the 1930s while incorporating genuine good-natured humour that gives the readers a lot to laugh about. A true epitome of southern writing, Harper Lee’s 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is testimony to the true struggles of those who were discriminated racially, through the eyes of two teenagers witnessing their father’s struggle against it all.
Lee focuses on several aspects of the racism that was rampant in the time of the story and the effects of 'The Great Depression' and its impact on the southern people. The combination of a genuine storyline, intricately woven characters, blunt truths and the warmest humour makes this novel a one-of-a-kind experience.
The most important theme of To Kill a Mockingbird is the book’s exploration of the moral nature of human beings—that is, whether people are essentially good or essentially evil. The novel approaches this question by dramatizing Scout and Jem’s transition from a perspective of childhood innocence to a more adult perspective.
The moral voice of To Kill a Mockingbird is embodied by Atticus Finch, who is virtually unique in the novel in that he has experienced and understood evil without losing his faith in the human capacity for goodness. Atticus understands that, rather than being simply creatures of good or creatures of evil, most people have both good and bad qualities.
The idea of education of children is necessarily involved in the development of all of the novel’s themes. In a sense, the plot of the story charts Scout’s moral education, and the theme of how children are educated—how they are taught to move from innocence to adulthood—recurs throughout the novel. This theme is explored most powerfully through the relationship between Atticus and his children, as he devotes himself to instilling a social conscience in Jem and Scout.
Differences in social status are explored largely through the overcomplicated social hierarchy of Maycomb, the ins and outs of which constantly baffle the children. The relatively well-off Finches stand near the top of Maycomb’s social hierarchy, with most of the townspeople beneath them. Ignorant country farmers like the Cunninghams lie below the townspeople, and the white trash Ewells rest below the Cunninghams.
Discussions about prejudice in general, and racism in particular, are at the heart of To Kill a Mockingbird. Conflicts over racism drive some of the most compelling and memorable scenes in the novel. Racial conflict causes the two dramatic deaths that occur in the story. To read the novel one would think racism is a problem that exists between educated, financially stable, moral white people, and ignorant, dirt poor, vicious white people.
Milestones of the Book:
- To Kill a Mockingbird was in its 41st week on the bestseller list, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
- Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 5, 2007 by President George W. Bush. In his remarks, Bush stated, "One reason To Kill a Mockingbird succeeded is the wise and kind heart of the author, which comes through on every page.”
- On November 5, 2019, the BBC News listed To Kill a Mockingbird on its list of the 100 most influential Novels.
- To Kill a Mockingbird was number five on the list of "Top Check Outs OF ALL TIME" by the New York public library.
About the Author:
Born in Monroeville, Alabama in 1926, Harper Lee was a graduate of Huntingdon College and studied law at the University of Alabama. Lee only published two books, yet she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 for her contribution to literature. She also received numerous honorary degrees, though she declined to speak on those occasions. She assisted her close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book ‘In Cold Blood’ (1966). She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel 'To Kill A Mockingbird’ among several other prestigious literary awards and honours. She passed away on 19th of February, 2016.