11 of 1001 Books: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

There probably is no other more beautifully written book, by a one-time author, than To Kill a Mockingbird. Published in 1960, I’m sure it was controversial and a welcome from those hoping to see American make the progressions it would in the 60’s in overpowering the huge racial barrier we had to over come, on top of that there are many other things that Harper Lee brings to light that doesn’t get discussed much including the idea of what a woman is, the class system in the south, and how growing up means in some of losing your innocent view of the world as Scout Finch has to.

Summary: Scout Finch is a young girl just beginning school in Alabama. She is looked after by her father Atticus, and the house helper, Cal. She also takes company with her brother, Jem. They spend most their summers wondering and trying to get a peek into the Radley house, who they believe harbors a dangerous man, Boo, who only stalks the world at night. There are things though that begin to become real horrors of the world, and distract them from their childhood games, such as the accusations from a troublesome white family, The Ewells thrown against a black man, Tom Robinson, for raping a woman. The kids witness a world were justice doesn’t always prevail and real violence is beyond what the mind can imagine.

Characters: This books isn’t really about a straight forward plot, but instead about how the characters grow and develop over the course of a couple of years. I’m still perplexed as to whether many teens in high school can connect to the characters in the way they need to when reading this novel, and it seems almost a waste to have people read it who don’t want to understand them. Also, Scout and Jem are young, but this isn’t a novel for their age group. At first when beginning the novel, Lee takes us into their world so well that we almost feel we are reading a children’s novel, but after Part One, drastic developments take place that almost make you feel even Scout shouldn’t be present to see what is happening, and even the adults in the novel debate whether letting her into the world of the trial process taking place against Tom. The fact we are seeing this through a child’s eyes is what makes the novel so rough at times to read, because for Scout it is devastating to find the world isn’t how you think it is. It’s a book for a adults through a kid’s eyes. There are also an array of other characters like Atticus and Jem that are likable, and Aunt Alexandra that is one of the characters that feels a little more realistic because she does straddle that line of being a good or bad person, but ultimately just wants the best for the kids even if it isn’t always the right way.

Writing: Another strong element of the book is the writing style. Usually first person is just a hard narrative to pull off, but Lee does it so well. She captures it well through a child’s eyes, and always makes her there for what she can that is happening to get the action of it. Things aren’t very clear always in the novel, and as they shouldn’t be since it’s from one perspective. Before Stephen King, or even J.K. Rowling though, she mastered this way of capturing how people speak as well. She gets the dialect down very well, and you even feel that when the men are speaking it’s a man and not a woman. The dialect and narrative are very lively and the fact you can get attached to other characters from one perspective is just very well done.

Plot: The plot isn’t one story to fit all. It’s almost like a string of events showing the kids in the stages of their youth where their imaginations terrify them, then they find that the real world isn’t very nice, and then a real danger catches up to them. It’s like a series of just watching them grow up. I think sometimes people put too much focus on the Boo Radley bit, or Tom Robinson bit, and people forget this is a novel at the core just about Scout. The fact that bits of this are autobiographical in nature are interesting as well, because it blends the novel into almost becoming a historical fiction account. This adds even another layer of depth for readers because you’re also getting insight into what Lee is accounting in a fictional sense of her childhood.

To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the best classics there is. It has great characters, a plot that grows, and writing that really makes the story pop. There is also a layer of darkness to the story, and while she does keep it realistic, we aren’t left feeling that it has prevailed, because most of all we are analyzing what happens to Scout and the ones she loves.

Rating 9 of 10.

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