“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is an outstanding story about a child’s ability to attain a perspective on life, written in the form of Bildungsroman and Southern Gothic novel.
What can I say that has not been expressed, much more eloquently, by thousands of other readers? There is a quotation: “Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts”. If I remove the adjectives from the attempt to write a review, I will not be able to convey how much I enjoyed it.
So, it is a wonderful piece of literature where you may find sadness as well as happiness; racism and equality; injustice and redemption. It deals with opposition, prejudice, and understanding. All these hypo-themes reveal, finally, the human innocence. In fact, the main theme might be not the innocence itself, but its destruction; the destruction of the belief in life incorruptibility because of a rough collision with the so-called racial injustice.
The story is told from the perspective of a six-year-old child, Jean-Louise, nick-named Scout, whose father, Atticus Finch is an attorney in a small Sothern (fictional) town in the 1930’s called Maycomb, Alabama. The main narrative line revolves around Tom Robinson, an African-American who was wrongly accused of raping a young white woman, and the local judge appointed Scout’s father to defend Tom at the trial. Later, the jury would declare Tom guilty, even though Atticus has clearly proven Tom’s innocence. Then he tried to escape the prison and was executed by shooting. Atticus struggled very hard against the unbending and inflexible system, but Tom’s crisis either of panic or of despair sentenced him to death.
Both the trial and all related or non-related events are presented in the light of “how a child would interpret it”. However, this is an adult child who sees the world more objectively than many genuine adults do. Her exceptional character is due to nature and her social background, as well as to her father. Atticus’ common sense and wisdom are inspirational: some men read this book while their wives are awaiting their child, just to get the point what is a good father…
In that respect, it should be said that the list of impressive characters is huge: Jem, Scout’s brother is a little gentleman with an innate sense of justice while Dill and “Boo” Radley are almost martyrs, they are victimized by their own society and families. Unlike his folks, Arthur Radley managed to preserve his innocent soul appearing like an angel in Jem and Scout’s life. Boo, an emotionally mutilated, physically ignored, erased from the social life, treated as an exile and outcast rescued another’s lives though he still remembered them laughing at him.
Both Arthur and Tom were not prepared for the evil they encountered, and, as a result, the first was overcome by alienation, the other was completely destroyed.
All in all, including many other “brave hearts” (Calpuria – devoted body and soul to Finch’s family; Miss Maude Atkinson, a neighbor that everyone would like to have etc.) remind me the old values of nobleness, not in terms of status or rank, but as a state of mind, as a conscience choice: altruism is an important feature; it survived thanks to such personalities, as the ones mentioned above.
Finally, I believe that it is a story about heroism: fight for what you are, what you stand for; what you love. It is a book which I found amazingly readable: you begin to read and cannot stop until the end. Also, it changed some of my viewpoints making me aware of my own reality (which is not so different from the one of Maycomb). Above all, this book is “responsible for an entire kaleidoscope of feelings“: a real, almost inescapable urge to kill those men who wanted to put Tom to death even before the trial, even with Atticus as an obstacle. I experienced a kind of strong hatred against those who thought themselves better and privileged. It was a cruel bloodlust beneath the skin – though most people won’t regard it as a positive book effect on a reader.
Summing up it can be said that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a novel full of role-models and romantic idealism of childhood. I would highly recommend it.