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As I understand it, most Americans read this book as part of their national schools’ curriculum, but it was not a set text when I was at school here in the UK. I read it only recently and am very glad I did. For those that are unaware of it, the book is written from the perspective of Scout Finch, growing up in Alabama (USA) in the 1930s with her older brother Jem and lawyer father Atticus. Scout is 6 when we start the book, about 8 when it finishes.
The Finch children have a lot of freedoms and are always playing out and about their small, safe hometown, daring each other to approach the property of their reclusive neighbour (the subject of numerous scary stories the kids tell each other) and thoroughly enjoying being youngsters and pushing their boundaries. However when their father is called upon to defend a black man in court, for allegedly raping a white woman, the town is much more divided and not so tolerant.
I found the book very well written. Lee captures Scout’s innocence and mis-understandings perfectly. When you see things through her eyes, everything seems much clearer, and it is a shame that, as adults, our outlook on the world is coloured by earlier pre-conceptions and cynicism. The book was published in 1960, and written in the late 1950s, which was still a volatile period in the civil rights movement. Lee was obviously anti racial segregation and these themes are specified in the book, even though it is set some twenty-five years sooner. It is not a long book, but it is well-written with important themes, and both heart-warming and sad in its own way.
Highly recommended read
"If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time."
To Kill A Mockingbird was published by Harper Lee in 1960 and is a book about the nature of people's bias and prejudices, with a focus on race and particularly Black/White race relations. It set a precedent for many later books on racial conflict and inspired many to go into law. The book was set and inspired by events/people in the 1920-30's and so parts of it can seem outdated but there are many principles on human nature and nurture that are just as relevant now as they have been for such a long time. The setting is mainly in/about a courtroom case and the differences between law, ethics and the minds of people are highlighted.
A Black cotton worker is falsely accused of raping a White teenager, it's up to the legal system of the area to give him a trial and to defend/punish him fairly but in a society where such crimes be thought of, happen, and can also be falsified is a defence and playing by the social/legal rules going to help? Will it help the individual and the masses? Do the adages - if you've got nothing to hide then you have no problem, or if you're innocent why hide/run - really have relevance/confidence/sincerity/truth? This is a book about tragedy and written in both satire and irony, using characters voices in sardonic and sarcastic tones.
THEMES/QUESTIONS FOCUSED ON
The main questions and expositions in the book being on: "how can we trust people to be fair?" So what if you put them in an orchestrated setting and tell them to behave, like in a courtroom (where Black and White are ironically used as the costume of the court) - it doesn't mean they'll suddenly turn into fair minded people who can see various points of view. If it did, would that mean they were acting, what about how they are like in everyday life? Many people view it like being on stage, where they don't want to give their opinions and don't want to take part due to possible repercussions or because it interferes with their lives. What about the hierarchy of people's positions in groups? Just look at the mini societies-micro infrastructures in the practise ground of educational institutions where the social/political or personality based roles people take in groups are then often repeated in the workplace and other areas in life where there are face-to-face situations. The same happens in juries, not every member is equal and even if they shouldn't be, look at some of the factors behind what determines how a group votes. When they are anonymous a number of 'nasty' things can turn up for organisers where people decided to show their 'true colours' instead of going with the group - or when it's not anonymous, who has the pervading roles and what is harbouring? What about the idea of a jury of peers? Are they really peers, do they really understand or have any experience in the situation, do they really care, what are their opinions based on? Preferences and resentments from life, watching and experience transfers to the ability to judge and what are instincts based on?
People often say 'if so and so weren't ruling, things would be better' and vice versa or as is the case in many uprisings 'well someone will be chosen from the people, an upstanding citizen'... But what makes the 'people' really better than their so-called 'leaders'? Do you really trust everyone around you to do the right thing? Do you really like everyone around you despite situations where you have to get along? What does that lead to - popularity votes from a selected few (and how are those few chosen, usually through having enough status and money to run in the first place and how did they get that) and one regime copying another. People often start out or sound as if they have ideals, but when push comes to shove they'd rather not have it as bad as others and if others have to have it bad so that they don't have to or so that they can at least be in a position they can manage that isn't too repulsive to them - guess who gets sacrificed. Who is running and working in the court? Interesting question. Kinda like how is it countries can be at war with each other, have masses of propaganda and convenient social division and cohesion on issues/events at certain times yet their 'nobility' are going off on business trips together, sharing dinners and going to each other's weddings? Protocol, work? Yeah like those excuses really help anybody, well anybody outside the inner pyramid.
A secondary theme is family; that you can't generally choose them and no matter what happens they are called 'family' in name at least. Many people are not happy with their families or particular family members but yet they are usually given priority over non-members. Then there are family members who are not wanted, replaced and passed on from place to place. The example is extended to various groupings people fall into - how people are members of a race/ethnicity, of social and financial classes and ultimately the irony of sub-group clashes when we are the same species/family. How much does family vs personal merit count?
Another theme is that of revenge and what happens when people are made accountable for something, they usually take it out further on the victim or others. Disproportionate emotions which led to the offence and factors into the reactions afterwards. The opposite to which is 'blind justice' - highlighting issues where 'justice' that is ignorant, distant, uneducated, disaffected and composed of groupings that have to mind their associations with each other. Retribution isn't really touched upon but that might seem vigilante and would go against the courtroom setting as well as the notion of democracy.
That is the gist of the book - players and the game/system, the players who make up the game and keep it going, how the game takes over society and the consequences. Players doing what they can in the game or only what is acceptable yet acknowledging the human mental conditioning and the motivations behind it. As aforementioned it was based in the 1920-30's so minor things like half the population not being thought of as sound enough in mind to deal with big matters like dispensing legal 'justice', people thought of as crazies, demented, too young, criminal, bloody foreigners, people generally not liked at that particular time aren't really given the same credence as the main character representations. For example the females in the book that are respected or shown as intelligent are rebuked (e.g. one being told by the school that she shouldn't be allowed to read and write) or given second fiddles in the usual 'not bad, for a woman' ethos.
The actual crime that the story revolves around is of one of the worst acts of violation that can be desired/planned/aided/committed but not much focus is given to the issue of rape in general, it is instead used as leverage to heighten the injustice of the situation and everyone's feelings of quiet rage, disgust and ultimately desensitization/acceptance to 'the way of life'. The only connotation of interest it is given is that it is a man who came up with the idea to use it as a false accusation and was backed up by others because of their prejudices. The girl involved isn't really focused on in the story but goes along with it.
QUICK CHARACTER SUMMARY
I've focused more on the plot and questions from it rather than the individual characters because the story is written in a way that the characters could be anybody, any person who has fallen into one of the roles whether we can relate to it or not, it could and has happened to many and none of us are immune. There isn't really character development; it's more narrative from some and watching events unfold for others.
The Finch Family - their religious ancestor travelled to the Southern US from England and from his work (including owning slaves) acquired enough wealth and position/stability for him and his inheritors to be considered respectable. The family in the book consists of two children; the younger sister Scout, older brother Jem and father Atticus. All three act as narrators in the book with Atticus taking the lead as the lawyer and the children additionally taking roles as voyeurs to the unfolding events. The children are often accompanied by their close friend Dill Harris. They take a lot of disapproval from their community for acting on behalf of a Black man.
Tom Robinson - the Black man who is falsely accused of raping a White teenager. He is disabled due to a severe injury to his left arm as a child. He is married to Helen Robinson and has three children, Helen becomes somewhat a co-narrator at times when speaking of the trial.
Robert Ewell - The father of girl who is the subject of the accusation. It was his idea to accuse Tom of rape and carries out a vicious campaign of lies and irrational hatred against him and those around him.
Mayella Violet Ewell - The daughter of Robert 'Bob' - confined to the house to look after younger siblings and her abusive father, she knows little of the place where they live/society. She tries to take her and Toms impersonal 'friendship' to a more adult level. Her father catches them, brutalizes her and hatches the plan of persecution/termination of Tom.
Calpurnia and Miss Maude - the former being the Finch housekeeper and the latter being a neighbour. Both are older women who play replacement maternal figures in the Finch's life having known them for the duration of it. 'Cal' helps more with their academic education and physical upbringing whilst 'Maudie' offers social/cultural education. Cal is Black and Maudie is White; Cal is observed as more capable 'than other coloured nurses' and Maudie is not racist unlike most of her peers.
Alexandra Hancock - Atticus Finch's sister and aunt to the children who goes to stay with them in the middle of the story. Classic in name and classic in nature she represents the females who've agreed and helped with repressing other females. In her case she cares but the care is backhanded.
Boo Radley - He is a bit like the old man in the film Home Alone (1990), a hidden helper in the neighbourhood though generally keeps to himself and is seen as mysterious/dark/quiet, someone to be uncertain of. The person he was inspired by in the life of the author was a man kept locked away by his father for 24 years after some kind of incident.
Mrs Dubose - an elderly neighbour of the Finch's, she is very racist and not shy about it though she has a Black nurse. She is seen as very brave and courageous when she dies of a fatal illness hampered by morphine addiction.
John Taylor and Heck Tate - The judge and the sheriff. Two friends/allies of Atticus, and believe in him to have a chance arguing the case. That said the three hold the major positions of official authority yet atrocity and miscarriages of justice happen in their jurisdiction and by their own workers and neighbours who hold them in respect/fear. They also hide events/truth in the name of 'protection'.
Braxton Underwood - represents the media. A news reporter and friend of Atticus he is torn between his friendship and racist beliefs.
Dolphus Raymond and Link Deas - two landowners. The former is married to a Black woman and has mixed raced children, he dislikes the community they live in so garners the reputation of a town drunk, though he's sober. The latter employed Tom and Helen Robinson and defended Tom at the trial, getting sent out by the judge, and also defended Helen against Robert.
There are many other side characters who play important parts in showing the hypocritical and conflicting nature of people's motivations and actions, how they can be nice/kind/sincere or ethical to one/certain groups and different or the opposite to others.
This book shows that people can't trust what they consider to be their instincts much of the time especially since so many of them are fear based including impressions and opinions on physical appearance. Racism is an excuse for an outlet, a symptom of further internal desires to subjugate and control, hence it sits well with other prejudices.
The Black/White colour clash goes beyond the skin to the mind as well - it shows that no matter how clear cut our ideals may be people find it very hard to live by them, mainly falling into shades of Grey where they believe positive and negative character traits and behaviours/actions can offset or redeem each other. The book features miscarriages of justice both in and outside of the legal setting, the loss of innocence and people doing what they think they have to be a part of society, of family, of their group. Going along with one and going against another because the obligations are hard to juggle, big and small actions that affect everybody slowly making dents in the overall consciousness but nevertheless trying to move past things that can't be undone. No matter the atrocities the living always try to move on continuously repeating things they'd rather not happen to them in the quest of making life more acceptable and bearable, but to do so they have to forget to an extent and have the ability to normalize atrocity.
People are people wherever they are, whatever they look like, however their cultures may be decorated - their behaviours and personalities don't differ. The 'prick us do we not bleed' figure of speech applies to all.
Two famous films that remind me of this book are A Time To Kill (1996) and The Green Mile (1999).
To Kill a Mockingbird is undoubtedly a landmark novel in terms of the documentation of the injustices of black civil rights in 1930s America and has perhaps not surprisingly made it onto nearly every 'top 100 novels' list known to man. It is because of this reputation that I first picked it up and began reading.
The novel, told through the eyes of a young girl, centres around a lawyer who is asked to defend a black man wrongly accused of the rape of a white woman in Alabama and the opposition he faces throughout the trial and indeed after.
Whilst the books main event focuses on the unjust treatment of African Americans in the Deep South during the years of the Depression, I don't think it would be entirely accurate to label this as a civil rights novel - its scope is much broader: it touches on the different roles of men and women; it deals to a greater extent on the relationship between the middle and lower class; it explores how we view morality in a much more general sense than just in terms of race. The novel captures brilliantly the general attitudes and behaviours of southern people at this bleak time in American history and for this reason alone it is worth reading. And I urge every reader who comes to read this book, PLEASE, do not read this purely as a novel about civil rights - the trial doesn't even get underway until halfway through and is over in the blink of an eye. Take time to enjoy all the other themes!
But of course, despite all its other wonderful details and observations of life in general, the novel does indeed serves as a grim reminder of how we were and of the injustice which we should never see repeated...
In May I finished my final year in school and despite loving to read it was often considered 'uncool' or just 'wierd' so I often chose not to read for this reason, or due to the fact I had very little time, thoug during my summer I made it one of my very many things on my 'to do' list to read all the 'classic' books.
It wasn't until Victoria Beckham's daughter was born, who she named 'Harper' supposedly after the author of her favourite book that I remembered this book was one of the classics so I decided to buy a copy.To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee; who has sold over 30million copies and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
I bought my copy from Waterstones wear it cost around £6.99, though you can also purchase them on eBay and Amazon, where the cost of the books will vary due to the different publishers/makes of the books.
The book follows very few characters and its main focus is around the 'Finch' family, who in many ways represent many 'normal' families and in others are very different to them, which I think is why the book relates so well to many different families. The book is told through the eyes of Scout Finch, who is Atticus Finch's youngest daughter. I enjoy the fact that it is told through her eyes as reading through a 'childs' eyes we often see/hear more things than we would if it was told through a adults eyes, especially due to the way in which they interpret events differently to adults.
~Atticus Finch ~
Atticus Finch is the father in this novel, to his son, Jem Finch and daughter, Scout Finch. He is a humble and intelligent man, whos main aim throughout the story is to teach is children right from wrong and morals. He is a lawyer and the case he has been dealt in the novel perhaps has a lot more meaning to it than what we first see, in that this case enables him to teach his children right from wrong and that those who are in the right do not always recieve fair justice.
The eldest of Atticus' children and perhaps has the biggest change throughout their novel, due to his transition from a boy to a man. The trial perhaps lies the toughest on Jems shoulders, but does his best to cover it and perhaps is one of the most detatched throughout the novel. He is growing up through a time of lots or prejudice and racism, however, despite the fact that he is 'pressured' into feeling this way too he is able to see the right side to things and is perhaps a lot more intelligent then he believes himself to be.
~Scout Finch ~
Scout Finch recieves a lot of pressure from her Aunt and others in that she should become a proper girl/lady in that she is very much a tomboy, but despite the pressure she may be under, she is also very stubborn in that she sticks by herself as a tomboy. Sometimes she seems at a bit of loose end as she is seeing her brother growing up and wanting to do stuff alone, which often sees Scout pretending she understands certain scenrios or acting more mature in order to keep up with him. Nonetheless, in her own way Scout is also growing up and beginning to understand that the 'adult' world is much different to how she percieved it to be.
Dill is a boy of a similar age to Jem who visits every summer. He is a mischeivous boy with an eye for adventure and often sets dares for Jem and Scout to see who can be the 'bravest', yet often never competes in the dares himself. He does not have a 'home' as such and is often placed from relative to relative, however is happiest when he is with Scout an Jem.
Tom Robinson is referred to as the 'mockingbird' in the story. He is a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman, which in times of prejudice and great divides in race means that the odds look set against him. He is being defended by Atticus.
As said before, the story is told through Scout. Though, what she often does is to tell the story through other peoples eyes, how she expects them to see it, or how she believes them to be thinking about a certain scenario.Though, due to the fact that she is only a child she often sees things in a very 'simplistic' view, in 'black and white', in what she beleives to be morally right and wrong as taught be her Father. She believes that it is right that Atticus is defending Tom Robinson due to the fact that he did nothing wrong, yet cannot quite comprehend why others disagree with her Father's decision to defend him. She is unable to understand the idea that some people do not 'like' black people or think 'badly' upon it and although she does not realise it, these ideas are already sculpting her future.
Scout and Jem go through man adventures together which often allows them to grow as person. As they become older they also begin to question adults and their way of being and often fail to undertand why adults make certain decisions or fail to to understand why certain adults try to hide things from children. Scout is very honest throughout the novel and it is her honesty that truly captivated me throughout the novel as reading a novel through a childs eyes is much different to reading it through an adults. Scout notices more than an adult does, questions more than an adult does, thinks more than her adult does, but above all it is the truth and innocence of a child that makes this novely a truly captivating read.
Throughout the novel we see the way in which the trial is able to shape Scout into a young lady and Jem in a young man and the fact that they begin to understand social and racial divides, but better yet do not understand why people still believe or treat others in this way which could scope a bright and less prejudice future for the town of Maycombe.
This book covers many different topics, from prejudice to social divide, morals, wrong and right and that of justice and despite it being consdiered that of a 'vintage' classic I still believe that many of the topics that it covers are still very much around today which allows the reader both to be able to relate to the book, but also allows them to question why things, in so many ways, have stayed the same.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is so much more thought-provoking than many other classic reads. I loved the fact that it was told through a childs perspective and we were able to see her grow and mature through her own eyes. Her honesty throughout the novel makes the book both a light-hearted and humorous read, but also a story of right and wrong and the fact that not everyone is seen as equals and gets the justice they deserve.
Though the book is written through her eyes, the book is very literate, which makes it an interesting read for any audience and also allows for a greater detail.
This novel really is a lovely, captivating read and from all the 'classic' books I have read so far, this has been my favourite which I think is mainly due to the character of Atticus Finch. He is a humble man, yet really is the true hero in this novel, although at times he can seem detatched, he is so full of compassion and though, at times, his job puts stress and a large amount of pressure on him, his want for putting the justice system right sees him as one of those characters you will never forget.
Overall, I would highly recommend this novel, it is definitley one I would pick up again and I also believe it has taught me through many of the things that Atticus Finch has said and believe that many of his quotes are memorable and will stick with me for a long time!
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ SPOILERS.
'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee
Story and Characters
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in early 1920s America. Racism runs rampant and segregation is the norm and is generally enforced.
The actual story takes place in Maycomb in the US, where Atticus Finch, a single father after his wife died, and his two children: Jem and Scout live with him. Jem is Atticus' eldest child, and Scouts slightly older brother; Scout is Jem's younger sister. Atticus is a lawyer, and is known for taking on cases that he believes are righteous and the defendant's innocent - regardless of race.
Outside of the Finch family, yet still serving in the Finch's house is Calpurnia, a black woman who helps Atticus around the house, looking after the children and cooking meals. The book makes sure that the reader knows that Calpurnia is smarter than a lot of black people at the time, and that she had taught herself and her children to read and write.
There are also a vast selection of not-so-important characters who seem to play a large part in the book but actually have very little relevance to the story whatsoever. For example, a lady down the street called Stephanie Crawford who spreads rumours around town is mentioned many times but never appears to actually advance the story at all, and her entire purpose in the book seems to be to reinforce to the reader what happened only pages before.
There is also a mysterious Radley family, who apparently never leave their house, but their convicted son apparently runs rampant in the night to eat animals and children? I understand it's supposed to give the impression of children's rumours, but the fact that the adults of the book believe that the Radley's son is a beastly creature is beyond ridiculous.
There is also the Ewell's, a group of lower class people referred to as 'trash', who live off welfare checks from the state. Their children never attend schools, and nor can the truancy officers make them (why they can't is never actually elaborated on in the book). The two stand out characters from the extensive Ewell family are Bob Ewell and Mayella Ewell, and we'll get on to what makes them so important in a second.
There is also Tom Robinson, a black man who, on the way home from work walks past the Ewell's house, and occasionally does jobs for Mayella out of the kindness of his heart.
What better way to repay him then to accuse him of rape? Bob Ewell accuses Tom Robinson of rape, and who would be appointed to be his lawyer? No other than Atticus Finch. You can practically predict this happening from the word 'go'. Atticus is a lawyer that takes on cases that it is unlikely he will win, usually from black people who have been accused of crimes; Tom Robinson is a defendant who is black and has been accused of a crime. See why it's so easy to predict?
This part of the book is literally the only bit that has any sort of tension whatsoever without being over-the-top and cheesy. The court-room scene where the public watch Atticus attempt to defend Tom Robison, going over about fifty pages of wondering and observing of the court. By the end, you may be intrigued by this book, which is a shame because by this point you're already four hundred pages in, and would probably have already lost interest due to the seemingly directionless story.
Honestly, when reading this I thought that Atticus put up a good fight in the Court of 'Law', but the judge seems to be incredibly biased and Tom Robinson is sentenced to death. Great, but wait, there's a twist! Atticus is going to appeal, another court room scene, the book might actually be somewhat dece- oh Tom Robinson is dead, he got shot in the back of the head trying to escape from the prison where he was being held for the trial.
So Bob Ewell won, but he wants to take revenge on Atticus for trying to save Tom Robinson (why?), so he tries to kill Atticus' children (why?) and then kills himself by falling onto his own kitchen knife (why?). Jem is seriously injured, the doctor says he'll wake up in the morning, the police come around, have a cup of tea, explain that Jem didn't kill Bob Ewell but he in fact killed himself and the end of the book is right there. Bish, bash, bosh - what an eventful book.
Honestly, apparently this story is influential of many books and inspired millions, but I fail to see how or why. The plot is practically completely directionless and the characters incredibly bland and uninteresting. While, yes, the courtroom scene was very well written and intriguing, the book actually fails to see its own strengths and faffs around with pointless sub-storylines that only make the book feel incredibly drab.
In short, the storyline is poor and predictable, with so many sub-storylines that you stop caring before you hit the half-way point. It's a shame, because it's a book that, with a focused storyline, could have actually been good - but it just falls flat on its face.
I'll be honest, I've never seen 'To Kill a Mockingbird' praised for its writing style, and it's not hard to see why. The speech is written as it's said, which understandably is to try and make the reader believe that the book is actually set in America, but it ends up making the speech a jumbled mess - and a hardly legible one at that.
It also uses a lot of American slang without properly explaining what the slang means - I had to look up several words to actually understand their meaning - only to find that some of the words can't actually be found in a dictionary. To Google, where Urban Dictionary will explain exactly what is meant by the dialogue. Really, this is pathetic - you shouldn't have to look up something that isn't properly defined in the book because it's an expression or description that is barely used anywhere else in the world but a particular county in America.
As for the actual writing outside of the dialogue, it's OK. The descriptions lack flair and it's not really written in a particularly engaging way, meaning that at least part of the book is just about bordering on 'worth reading'. The grammar is also well placed outside of the speech, but inside the speech marks it is hard to tell when the characters are quoting someone or something or are saying something with emphasis because the use of apostrophes and quotation marks are muddled throughout.
The writing, in conclusion, is poor - better than some writers, and the speech is obviously written with marvellous intent, but like the storyline, it falls flat on its face.
Value for Money
'To Kill a Mockingbird' isn't actually worth your money in the slightest, unless you like directionless literature, in which case this book is worth every penny. The book is non-linear, slow and directionless. It's a few hundred pages, meaning that with Amazon's asking price of £4.19, you're essentially paying for the printer and the ink. It's a shame that the paper would probably be worth more without the ink on it.
I don't recommend that you buy this book, but if you wish to, you can buy it from Amazon from the 'not-quite-worth-it' price of £4.19.
'To Kill a Mockingbird' is a relatively tame book as far as content goes, but here's a run-down.
- Two young characters discuss where babies come from, and one suggests that you 'give it to each other' and then a baby is taken across the lake from a land where all the babies are and given to you. The conversation is relatively brief.
- A child says they've been playing strip poker to get his friend who lost his trousers out of trouble.
- Character's say "nigger", but it's not derogatory and it was commonly used as a description in the 1920s, meaning that it is used in favour of historical correctness
- Two young children say 'damn' and 'hell'. The characters are told off at one point in the book for saying these words.
- Young characters often get into fights, no description of detail.
- A rape is described without detail by the victim.
- A character shoots a rabid dog.
- There is a fire, no one is hurt.
- Three children are shot at, no shot hits.
- A character is said to have been shot in the head. Not described beyond that.
The book is relatively tame, and is pretty much suitable for anyone over the age of ten, but they may not understand some of the themes (rape, prejudice, racism).
It is beyond me why they use this as a GCSE book in Britain. It's far from compelling, bland, directionless and not very well written. There is very little in the way of redeeming features for 'To Kill a Mockingbird' other than the tense court-house theme.
Avoid it at all costs.
I award 'To Kill a Mockingbird' two out of five stars for having one minor redeeming scene.
'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird'
I read this book because my daughter is studying it for gcse and she recommended it, now I am recommending it to you. The book's RRP is £6.99 and available on amazon at £4.19- a bargain!
This book is very memorable and there are so many quotes that teach valuable lessons such as the one above. The book is well know for its warmth and wit whilst dealing with serious issues of rape and prejudice.
The story is set in America in the Deep South of the 1930's where in Maycomb, Alabama racism and prejudice rule. The story is narrated through young Scout Finch who lives with her father Atticus and brother Jem. They have several adventures as young children and spend their childhood trying to catch a glimpse of Boo Radley, with their friend Dill who visits every summer.
Atticus Finch is a lawyer and is faced with a difficult case in which his client is a innocent black man who has been charged of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell. Despite evidence that clearly proves his innocence, the jury rules him guilty and he is sentenced to death. The children thought that surely their father had one the case but the town is steeped with racism and hypocrisy so this man's struggle for justice is unsuccessful.
Today Atticus Finch remains a model of integrity for lawyers and I think that parents should aspire to be like him. This book is a brilliant read and explores adult attitudes to race and class in the South of America.
I first read this book when I was 15, and it was a set text for my GCSE English Literature at my new school. All I can say is that this book is an absolute classic. The storycentres of the trial of a black man accused of the rape of a white girl and is seen through the eyes of Scout Finch, the young daughter of the lawyer Atticus,
and it's main theme is the racism in a small town.
The first part of the book is more focused on the life of Scout, her brother Jem and their summer friend Dill. They all have a desire to get their reclusive neighbour Boo Radley come out of his house so they can catch a glimpse of him. Lees' descriptions paint a vivid picture of their home life which sets the reader up for the second part of the story.
The second part centres on the trial and the events surrounding it. The children find themselves putting up with slanderous comments about their father from most of the town with the trial bringing out the worst of the people of Maycomb. Atticus Finch gives the children a voice of reason throughout the story and is a beacon of hope for them throughout the story.
As I said at the beginning, I read this book for GCSE English almost 10 years ago now and have kept coming back to it time and time again. Everytime I read it I come across a description which somehow eluded me on previous readings, or realise a point the author was trying to make that i didn't get before. I think it is one of those books which will teach you somethin different depending on what stage of your life you are at when you read it. It is an amazingly written book which challenges racist views and educates at the same time. It's just a shame that is is Harper Lees' only contribution to the world of novels.
To Kill A Mockingbird was a book I first came across when I was fifteen or sixteen; it was a set text for my GCSE English Literature course, and it was probably chosen as it fits into the 'easy to read classic' category. This makes the subtleties weaved into it even more impressive, as there are many layers of thought and emotion conveyed throughout a variety of different characters.
Since studying it at school, I bought my own copy and it's become dog-eared over time - it's one of the few books I studied that I'll read over and over again. I also managed to catch the film version on TV a few months ago, and it's incredibly faithful to the book.
To Kill A Mockingbird is set in America during the Great Depression. Set in the first person, the book's narrator is a young girl called Scout Finch, who lives with her lawyer father Atticus, her brother Jem and their housekeeper Calpurnia in the small Southern town of Maycomb. Maycomb is one of those small towns where everyone knows everyone else, and everyone's family has a specific reputation for being lazy or stretching the truth or being poor and so on. Not only do the characters take this for granted, but many of them play up to this role with something of an air that they could never be anything else.
It's quite unusual to have a narrator of only eight or nine years old, particularly in the 1960s when this book was first published. I think Harper Lee has handled this well and hasn't been condescending; instead she's found a rather tricky compromise of balancing adult readers with a young tomboy's view of the world.
The early part of the book serves as an introduction to the town and its inhabitants, largely through Scout's eyes, although the views of others do come through in her descriptions and there is plenty of direct speech from other characters. In the first part of the book we find out about some of the mysteries of Maycomb (including the unseen neighbour Boo Radley), Cousin Dill comes to visit and there are various details of school life and Scout's precociousness. Whilst these are lots of smaller events throughout the book that seem to fade into unimportance against the major plot line, they are in fact extremely valuable in understanding the story and characters. I often get confused when there are lots of characters in a story, but Harper Lee's introductions are so clever and well thought out that you do end up feeling as if you're in this town and you know these people as intimately as Scout does.
Once the scene has been set and the relationships depicted and developed, Lee takes us to what is usually deemed the fundamental issue of the book - the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man who can't possibly be guilty of the crime he's accused of, and yet is expected to be found guilty as all black people have been to date. You can imagine that this causes a lot of fuss and upset in such a small town as people are very quick to take sides, and call Atticus crazy as he is determined to do as much as he can to defend Tom and get a 'not guilty' verdict, even when his family's lives are threatened.
Atticus has a very strong force in the book; he's idolised by Jem and Scout (and others in the town), and is forward-thinking both in the way he raises his children and his understanding of the complex world he's situated in. Rather than brushing off his children's complicated questions, even when he doesn't know the answer himself, he discusses sensitive issues with them and ultimately guides them into forming well-rounded opinions and making good choices. Scout and Jem clearly mean well, although they are quite wild in some respects, and it's clear that Atticus is an ideal role model.
Ultimately I think this book works really well as its combination of lighter mini plotlines and more emotive main events means it's difficult to get bored. Although several characters could be viewed as stock, stereotypical beings, Lee doesn't hide this fact but rather celebrates it, and somehow it works. The descriptions of both setting and characters are simplistic yet powerful; you can feel the heat of the town, you can understand the lives of the people in it.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee; winner of the Pulitzer Prize and with over 30 million copies sold, this book has become a staple component of many bookcases and school curriculums over the 50 years since it was first published.
Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama in 1926 and according to the edition I have, still resides there. I recall reading an interview where on the publishing and success of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee had been quoted as saying she was working on her next novel to rival its success - a novel which has never been released and possibly never finished. I like to think it will be published upon her death as a means of instilling her further literary success and that she's been working on it all these years since the release of To Kill A Mockingbird in 1960.
Atticus Finch - Lawyer, widower and father to a son and daughter, Jem and Scout. An honest and intelligent man who retains dignity and honour throughout in a time steeped with racial segregation and prejudice.
Jem Finch - The eldest of Atticus' children, he is boy developing into a man with a world of indecision and injustice resting on his shoulders.
Scout Finch - 'Jean Louise' as she was born, a mischievous tomboy through which this story is told. She is stubborn and strong-willed; the younger sister of Jem who she treats with a mix of idolatry and contempt as he matures and leaves her behind, but in her own way Scout is maturing and growing.
Dill - 'Charles Baker Harris' - a young boy around Jem's age but smaller than Scout with a wild imagination for fabrication and sense of adventure, leading Jem and Scout into dares which truly test how brave they could be - obviously very important to the proud and impressionable siblings.
Tom Robinson - a black man accused of raping a young white woman, being defended by Atticus.
This story is told by Scout through the adventures she shares with her brother and Dill; her youthful interpretation of events that surround her father's choice to defend a black man accused of rape. It indicates how in youth and through an honest and 'unbiased' upbringing, a child is capable of interpreting situations through what is morally right and wrong, treating situations as though they are black and white, something lost on the adults who dictate the outcomes and decisions made in a court room. Atticus attempts to teach his children that such situations are coloured by prejudice and unwarranted discrimination which despite the law, do not prevent the wrong decisions being made.
Scout and Jem encounter many situations which lead them to question adult sensibilities within their families, friends and neighbours. Scout will make you laugh with her honesty and the way in which she figures out the simple things and the more complex 'adult' issues which she encounters.
Rivalling this wider story of Atticus' duty to defend Tom Robinson, emerges Scout's experiences of the attempts made to shape her into a lady, the different social classes within the white neighbours of her small town, starting school and the ever alluring challenge of coaxing Boo Radley, their allusive, reclusive neighbour out of his home near theirs.
Race and social prejudice in the small town of Maycombe with its collection of familiar residents, some broad minded and becoming closer to accepting all people as equals, and others trapped by generations of prejudice and years of tolerating abuse of those deemed lower class, make this a wonderful book for young teens upwards.
I first read this book at GCSE and loved it. I still have my much tampered and used edition and picked it up again recently in my bid to read the BBC's top 100 books. This book is a gem, beautifully written from Scout's perspective and fills me with a deep sense of injustice and pity at those who still harbour racial hatred. I found it an incredible read at the time because I sincerely could not understand how one human being could place another's life on the line in such a way, and how others bought into it to seemingly 'protect' their own. The book is meant to reflect Harper Lee's childhood in some instances; her father was a lawyer who defended three black men on trial for murder and who I believe were hung despite a lack of evidence to fit them to the crime.
A beautiful read - I highly recommend it and it deserves its place in the BBC top 100!
What does drive me nuts however is in the 1993 edition on page 99, where the quote that ties this book to its title "Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a Mockingbird" is spelt wrong despite the correct quote in the blurb but '...if you CAN'T hit 'em...' inside which makes the sentence meaningless. Eugh. The one thing you thought they would have published correctly. Otherwise...what a superb book!
I remember when, aged twelve or thirteen, being in the classroom with my peers, seated on wooden chairs at wooden scarred desks, the sun shining in through the windows of the annexe building, as the new class reading books were given out. There were enough to go around, which made a change. Oh, the excitement for me, a new book to read and with a strange title...'To Kill a Mockingbird.' I'd never heard of it and had no idea what it was about. Our strict, but motivating, English teacher, with a tremendous passion for books, began to read. I was captivated from the start. Selected girls were given a paragraph or two to read aloud but they were all too slow for me, being a fast reader. I kept the place, in case I was picked upon to read, although I never volunteered, I moved my chair slightly to be better placed to be hidden by the pupils in front, and I skipped ahead, becoming so engrossed in this tale that I was sorry when the bell sounded.
The books had to be collected back in so I went as soon as possible to a bookshop, purchased this novel and rad it before the next lesson. In this way I could stand the slow reading of others.
I have read this book several times, as a teenager and as an adult. I was pleased when my daughter studied it last year for GCSE. I was delighted that she also found it a fantastic read.
'To Kill a Mockingbird' was a Pulitzer prize winning novel, written by Harper Lee, and published back in 1960. It became a classic in American Literature, although it's content was deemed controversial by some due to the portrayal of black people in America's deep south, during the 1930s depression.
The novel was adapted into an Oscar winning film, starring Gregory Peck (In my opinion, he played a perfect Atticus) in 1962.
The novel is narrated by Scout Finch (Jean Louise) a six year old tomboy. It covers three years in the life of her and her family. The narrator tells the story as a child but is looking back so has an adult perspective of the events occurring in this book. The author claimed the book is not autobiographical but the main characters share many similarities with the author's real life family, and events in her life. Harper Lee's father was a lawyer who defended black men, which in those unjust times was not a great career move if the case was against whites, particularly in this type of location.
It is a book of two halves. The first half introduces us to Maycomb in Alabama and describes this sleepy town in America's deep south, and events leading up to the second half. We get to know Scout as she prepares to go to school, unwillingly. She is lively, bright and can already read, as her black housekeeper, Calpurnia has taught her. This is unusual as most coloured people then had very little education and this also shows the unusual upbringing Scout and her older brother Jem were receiving. They were being brought up by their widowed father, Atticus and their housekeeper. These children had been taught to respect others, seeing beyond their skin to the person within. Through their kind, gentle, intelligent father's tolerance and insight into others and why people do the things they do, later events cause them much soul searching and even bewilderment.
Atticus has to defend a young black man, Tom Robinson, in an upcoming trial. Tom is accused of raping white Mayella Ewing. Atticus knows from the start that defending a black man against a white woman will bring repercussions upon his family and himself. As he is a man who takes seriously the task of 'living with oneself', and one's conscience, he is determined, and sees no other way than to defend this young man to the best of his ability.
Atticus is not one for guns so the children's uncle Jack teaches them how to use their air rifles. Concerning this I want to show a short quote from the book as I feel it's important to the essence of this story:
'Atticus said to Jem, "I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." That was the only time I ever hear Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. "You're father's right," she said. "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mocking bird." '
This quote explains how something or someone (I'll leave you to discover who!) that is innocent and causes no harm should be left in peace and that it's sinful to do otherwise.
Scout and Jem become friendly with a largely 'ignored' boy, known as Dill, who is spending the summer with an aunt. The three of them become intrigued with the life of Boo Radley, a reclusive neighbour. Their overwhelming aim is to get him to come out of his home. Although wanting to see Boo they are also terrified of him.
Strange things happen around this theme but if you haven't read this book you will ant to find all this out by yourself.
I found these children's exploits fascinating and everything happening in this book is intriguing, in the event itself and the way it is told. Some occurrences are tense and some sad but throughout this book is entertaining. The descriptions transport one into a 1930s southern town.
The second half is more to do with racism and covers the events of the trial. It's unbelievable to us now to see how segregated America was. During the trial The children want to watch but as they'be been forbidden by Atticus, they sneak in and watch from the 'coloured' balcony.
The events in this book, as I've already said, are always interesting and often gripping but, I think it's worth stressing that the author's style is fantastic. As the tale is told through a very unusual child, it's amusing at times as well as heart rending. The characters in this book are portrayed realistically. The ones that we should like we do. We could learn so much from Atticus, Calpurnia and miss Maudie their wise neighbour and sounding board for Scout. I had great empathy with Scout throughout. A really strong character.
I consider, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' a must read. It is truly a book suitable for mature teenage readers and adults. It has an important tale to tell which is told in an entertaining, clever way. It is a book that you won't want to put down. It is one of the best books that I've read and I hope you will enjoy it too.
Thank you for reading my review on this much loved novel.
This book is an absolute classic. The story of the trial of a black man accused of the rape of a white girl seen through the eyes of Scout Finch, the young daughter of the Robinson's lawyer Atticus, it paints a vivid picture of racism in the southern states of the US in the 1930s. It is set in Maycomb, Alabama, "a tired old town".
The book is in two parts - the first part focuses more on the lives of Scout, her brother Jem and their friend Dill (who comes to stay every summer with his Aunt Rachel, who lives next door to the Finch family) and their quest to make their reclusive neighbour Arthur "Boo" Radley come out of his house so they can catch a glimpse of him. Lee paints a vivid picture of Scout and Jem's home life, giving the reader a background to what happens in the second part.
The second part then focuses on the trial and the events preceding it, as well as the aftermath. Scout and Jem have to put up with slanderous comments about their father from most of the neighbourhood (although they have a friend in their neighbour, Miss Maudie Atkinson). The trial brings out the worst of Maycomb's usually good people and gives a great example of mob mentality. The voice of truth and reason throughout the book is Atticus Finch - he gives the reader a solid beacon of hope to hold onto throughout the novel.
A brilliantly well-written book that challenges racist attitudes, this without a doubt gets five stars from me. It really is a shame Harper Lee never wrote any more books, the world could use more like this one.
Thanks for reading! This review is also published on ciao.co.uk under the same username.
One of my favourite bboks of all time is Harper Lee's, 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'
It is THE book that got me hooked on reading.
To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming of age story about a girl named Scout Finch who lives with her brother Jem and her father Atticus.
The book takes place in Alabama during the Great Depression.
Scout and Jem befriend a boy named Dill who is visitng for the summer. They share many wonderful adventures together and are fascinated by the neighbor they call Boo Radley. On the last day of the sumemr the three of them actually make it to the front door of the Radley house, but are shot at and run away. This adventure brings these three children close together before Dill is sent away.
The other main part of the book is the story about Atticus who defends a black man and this causes much controversy amongst the community. The father teaches his children through his actions to treat everyone fairly.
It goes without saying that you don't need to be a literature student to recognise that To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the best books in the history of writing. It is a film that runs the gamut of emotions, examining the 1930s American Deep South in a way that is infuriating, funny, and ultimately very moving.
The plot revolves around Scout Finch, a young girl, and the novel examines two Summers of her life as she interacts with her friends and family in a small, enclosed town in Alabama. Everything ultimately revolves around the race relations of the time, but the novel is sure to easily and gradually bring this to the forefront. It begins as a quaint family story about how Scout and her friends hear of the mysterious Boo Radley, an almost mythical recluse who they desperately want to meet, and while at this point it is a novel close to whimsy, you will be brought back to Earth with the revelatory events that follow.
The better part of the novel revolves around the trial of a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman, but who is in fact innocent. It is Scout's dad, Atticus, who has decided to defend the black man, and given the attitudes to race during the time, it causes considerable tension not only in his family, but in the town at large. The court case is one of the truly great set-pieces of modern literature, and doesn't deign to dumb anything down, while remaining socially conscious with its examination of how people viewed black people in the 1930s.
There are no lucky escapes, and Harper Lee follows through to horrifying ends with her examination of bigotry. It is nevertheless an inspiring tale about standing steadfast in the face of adversity, and if you're at all conscious of the sins of past generations, this is a must read.
Written nearly 50 years ago, Harper Lees classic coming of age story may be slightly outdated in language and content now, yet it still carries strong moral messages that we can all learn from and resonant throughout the decades.
The story focuses on the word through Jean Louise 'Scout' Finches eyes as she grows up in the small, close knit town of Maycombe, Alabama. We follow her through her experience of growing up in an era that retains slavery and degradation against those of a different race, and how her father Atticus Finch manages to stick to his morals and teach her to disregard the popular opinion. The basic plot is that Atticus has been given the case of Tom Robinson, a black slave who is accused of raping the daughter of one of the oldest white families in Maycombe. This doesn't start until later on in the book, after we've got a good sense of Jem, Scout and Atticus's moral compass and that of the townsfolk. Through Scout, we get to know the wide range of characters and where they stand on the issues at hand.
However, before we get to the moral of the story, we have to understand the town of Maycombe and it's inhabitants. A small settlement in rural Alabama, Maycombe is the quintessential Deep South town where everyone knows what colour underwear everyone else is wearing! Finch Landing is, much to Scout and Jems dismay, in the 'old peoples' part of town and so with the exception of Dill who visits a few summers, they have only each other to play with. The first part of the book mainly focuses on the idyllic lazy summers between school terms and the kids fascination with the scary Radley house; a run down, rickety old place which holds the terrifying Boo Radley. It's rumoured that Boo is criminally insane and murdered his father with a pair of scissors - however as is often the case with childrens imaginations, eventually this discovered to be largely invented and the children gain a valuable ally.
The second part of the book is largely concerned with the moral question of a lawyer defending essentially a doomed client; and why. As Atticus points out to Scout "Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started, doesn't mean we can't try to win." Atticus knows he will not win this case, from the start - and so does the reader. Yet you keep reading, because Lees writing style is so engaging and the characters are so well drawn. Atticus proves time and again to be the central hero figure of the story, even in his failings. This part of the story sets out to teach the reader a few simple life lessons through the characters. Never give up, no matter how bleak things seem, and quite simply, respect your fellow man. The second point was probably more apt back in 1960 but it can still be used today.
On to a some what random note. Censorship. Censoring this book would be a massive travesty of justice and I can not believe anyone would want to ruin or deprive young adults of what is a classic piece of literature. No, it's not a childrens book, and yes, there are hugely adult themes running through it (rape, racism and some very outdated language and practices) but it's dealt with in a mature and sensitive manner and is indeed eye opening. I hope that my future children are able to read and enjoy this classic - and many others like it - in the original fashion it was written. Harper Lee uses what is nowadays deemed as abhorently offensive language to create a caricature of the old way of thinking that people's worth was decided on their race and skin colour.
I was 'made' to read this in year 9 at school, and whilst I enjoyed the book then, I didn't love it. I was merely browsing the library a few weeks ago and saw it on the shelf; my memory was stirred. I can firmly say now that this book is in my top 5 favourites of all time and a definite contender for the top spot! I am undecided on whether or not I want to see the film, as I quite simply can't plot the neighbourhood out in my head. Maybe time for a remake?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is not the usual sort of book I would read. I am normally into mindless trashy books and this is certainly not one of these, nor does it come across as one. I awas asked to read it whilst studying for my GCSEs at school in English class and I was really pleased I did, otherwise I may have missed out on this literary masterpiece. Harper Lee has never since wrote another book, and little is known about the author. It is hard to imagine, after writing something so sincere and moving, never to go on and write something else.
To Kill a Mocking Bird is set in the 1920s in America. The story revolves around a small town called Maycombe and the poorer version of the middle class families which live in it. The main family in the book, the Finch family consist of the father who is a lawyer, bringing up the children himself with the help of a house keeper, and the two young children a girl called Jem and a boy called Scout. The children are typical children, innocent and naive by mind and have a lot of adventures, involving rough and tumble and crazy imaginations.
The town is an old cotton picking town where racism is rife. The town are not fans of black people. The thoughts and judgements of the Finch family are called to account when Mr Finch defends a black criminal from a crime at the local courts. The whole town gets involved and the sensationalism takes over the town, events get dark and scary and you question people racist mind sets.
The theory behind the book (well one of them, there are far more moral tales to be told) is that children are born innocent, as Scount and Jem do not understand the racist beliefs, and then become racist after being conditioned by society. It is an interesting concept one which people will agree or disagree on all over the world. It is a contrast to the opinions in Lord of the Flies whereby children are supposedly born free and potentially evil and are then reigned in by society.
I would really recommend this book. There is good reason why it has sold over 30million copies worldwide, it draws you in, makes you question your beliefs, and for the time reading it you will believe you are in Maycombe.