Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Publishing Date: April 2010 (first published 1960)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Summary (from Goodreads):
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
I've never really been the biggest fan of classics. I feel as if they are dreary, dull, and never-ending. In fact, most of the time, as I read classics, I spend majority of my time trying to figure out how these books became "classics" in the first place. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird completely obliterated all of that thought.
Set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, this book gained my interest immediately. Being an Alabamian myself, I rarely, if ever, see stories set in Alabama, and here is one of America's greatest classics set in my home state. So, I thought I'd give it a try and see what all the fuss was about. Little did I know what I was walking into.
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in 1930's America, during the Great Depression. In this novel, Harper Lee takes two stories, the story of Boo Radley and the trial of Tom Robinson, and blends them into one heart-felt and emotionally entangling story.
Scout, the narrator, is a rambunctious little six-year-old tomboy. The novel, told from her adult perspective, covers about 3 years of her childhood. She spends her days at school, and during the summer, she comes along for the escapades of her older brother, Jem, and Dill, their friend who stays in Maycomb during the summers. These children help any reader to beautifully connect to his or her childhood, and allow any reader to fall immediately in love with them.
Atticus, Scout and Jem's father, is probably the most respectable character that I have ever read about. Atticus is honest, conscience-bound, smart, and compassionate. He is not quick to speak, and he cares about doing what is right, even when it is hard. He truly personifies Exodus 23:2, which says, "You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice." He does not follow the crowd; he follows his heart. He knows what is right, and he stands up for it.
The novel begins with the story of Boo Radley. Boo is a mystery to the town. According to Jem, Boo Radley is kept under house arrest by his father and never leaves his house accept at night. He allegedly eats raw animals for fun, and he spies on the people of Maycomb though his shuttered windows. No one's seen him for many years, and Scout, Jem, and Dill are aching to make him come out of his hiding hole.
Towards the middle of the novel, we start to move into the case of Tom Robinson. As this novel is set in the 1930's, there is extreme racial prejudice in the south, and Tom Robinson is a black man. He is accused of a crime by a white man, Mr. Bob Ewell, and the lawyer who takes Tom Robinson's side of the case is Atticus. Atticus fights for what he believes in, but he knows that he most likely won't win the case, because he's taking the word of a black man and putting against a white man's. Still, he pursues and fights for Tom, even when the going gets tough.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a beautiful, well-written novel that is full of excitement and speaks to the hearts of many. It speaks of conviction, of justice, of truth, and of family love. I fully recommend this book to readers of all age. It is truly a work of art.
Favorite quote from the book:
"'They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions,' said Atticus, 'but before I can live with other folks, I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.' "