I first read to Kill a Mockingbird as a child and was prompted to read it again as my son has been studying it and discussing it. It is the tale of young Scout Harper, the daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch set in the deep south USA in the 30's as Atticus takes on the case of a Black Man who has been accused of the rape of a local girl and recounts Scouts observations of the of the events, ignorance and intolerance that surround this world and it's concept of justice.
It is a book that was very important to me as a kid, powerful stuff that really made me think about ignorance, prejudice , hypocrisy, entrenched values, cruelty and kindness. At the time I related to this world told through the eyes of this young girl but this time my experience was more of having lived for decades in a world that hasn't moved on as much as I'd hope and where the lessons of this book are still there to learn.
Harper Lee wrote only one book, but what a book. A classic and one I would urge anybody and everybody to read.
on 3 November 2014
I read Harper Lee's classic twenty years ago and loved everything about it. Her story of life in a small town in the Deep South, mixed with an incredible but easy going style of writing, produced one of the best loved books of all time. I passed my original copy to my niece who promised to read it. So far she hasn't picked it up, but I'm not going to push her. Sooner or later she'll discover it for herself. Meanwhile I bought a new copy and immersed myself in the life of Scout and the Finch family. It's hard to stop praising a book which in reality, shows a community with all its prejudices laid bare for the reader. I don' t think there are many communities, even nowadays, that would stand up to too much scrutiny. But there are many positive ideals and hopes to take from these pages. One of them being that life isn't always fair or just, but given time and by example, change can happen.
on 7 September 2010
Most people were forced to read this book at school. I am fortunate that I was not! I think this would have taken away some of the pleasure I had in reading it. I was enthralled, could not put it down and, as a result, read it in a few days - in bed, at work, etc! I was totally gutted when I finished it as I felt like I knew the characters and actually MISS them, especially Atticus. I'm dying to know what happened next! I would urge anyone to read it, it's definitely changed my life.
on 28 December 2014
Interesting bit of semi-fictionalized social history. If I were rating it for the narrator's socio-political views it would get 5 stars, but litcrit doesn't work that way. It is (as Capote said) a warm, likeable book. As a highly intelligent child, Scout is able to look at the affairs of adults with the puzzlement of an alien visitor to our world. I had the same experience of primary school teachers as Ms Lee seems to have done, so I'm not claiming this kind of child narrator is unrealistic, but it's more interesting when a writer works with the dramatic irony of the gulf between the child's understanding and what is really going on - for example in Frayn's Spies or James's What Maisie Knew. I would rather have read Dill's take on all this, in his world where babies are found on an island waiting to have life breathed into them.
Harper Lee was encouraged to write some of her childhood memories. What in the beginning seems like the story of three childhood friends in depression era Macomb, Alabama, turns out to be packed with insights to the makeup of human kind.
This story is intriguing on many levels from the history of the area to the stereotyping of people. Most of all every turn was a surprise as told in the first person from the view of Scout Finch. And instead of telling the story in a six year old vocabulary she uses an exceptionally large repertoire to describe the people and events. This story is not as slow passed as one may guess from first glance as every remark and every action will be needed for a future action.
A major controversial part of the story is the trial of Tom Robinson. Hoverer this is just a catalyst to help Scout understand the nature of people including her father Atticus and you will find that as important as it is it is just a part of the story with other major characters such as Arthur "Boo" Radley.
Even thought it appears that Scout is the recipient of the insights, I believe we the reader is the real recipient.
I can truly say that this book has changed my outlook in life.
To Kill a Mockingbird (Collector's Edition)
Harper Lee (Up Close)
on 26 May 2015
Warning: contain spoiler of the book
I have known this book for a long time because it was a reader for my sister's A-level English Literature exam in Hong Kong. I bought it because it was listed as one of the must-read English books in the UK. Now I read it because it is my daughter's GCSE reader for English Literature, and she said I should read it.
Because it is a school reader, I guess many essays have been written on it and it is well analysed. I will only highlight that choosing to narrate the story from Scout, who was close to her brother, both at that impressionable age when they formulated their worldview, is very key to its appeal and success. Racial prejudice and social tensions are very heavy, serious and political topics. Exploring them through children's inquisitive minds and not-yet-contaminated conscience injects lightheartedness into an otherwise serious subject and arouses the adult's callous sense of justice. Public opinion is a brute force and it takes courage and sacrifice to stand up against it. As always our deliberation in a moral dilemma reflects the quality of character. Can we stand up against what the process of deliberation reflects about ourselves? How do we weigh up all the considerations and whose interests will we try to protect most? In situation like this, the propelling force comes from something bigger than self, called beliefs, and can there really be neutral bystanders?
In the book, we see Atticus' deliberation in greatest details as his decision and actions were constantly challenged by his children, wider family and different layers of the community. As the children struggle to understand the situation, their innocent questions and reactions are most probing. The purity of their hearts and concerns expose the irrationalities of the adult world. When they try to reason and conform, it gives them grief and pain. Perhaps this could be termed as social (as opposed to physical) growth pain, which was most acutely felt by Jeremy Finch. I have forgotten how confusing it could be for children growing up. If children fail to find a way to make sense of the world, a reclusive life, as captured by the character of Boo Radley, can be an outcome of such struggle. Mr Raymond's way perhaps is a compromise.
Doing the right thing when it costs nothing is easy. Risking one's life to do the right thing for others is a totally different matter. As in the end, Mr Robinson was still convicted, even when it was crystal clear even to the children that it was a miscarriage of justice, we may ask if Atticus' effort and the risk that he took was worth it. The author tries to convince us that it was worth it as a baby step had been made and people's minds were awakened.
The struggles and dilemma explored in the book still strike resonance in today's society. The issues may be different, but tensions are still a fact of life with us. Today in politics, we often hear about the ideal of equality in society. But what is it? It is almost like a byword to justify everything. I like the closing speech of Atticus for the Robinson's case. In that he said, "Thomose Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace 1935 for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious - because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe - some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they're born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others - some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men. But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal - ... That institution, gentlemen, is a court..." (p. 226)
Today we are still fighting to ensure this institution upholds this equality. The legacy of the Stephen Lawrence case in the UK is one example, and the issues raised by this book are still relevant to today's US. Finally, does it stir us to contemplate what an equal society really looks like? Is an equality that allow diversity to blossom too far-fetched?
It is a thought-provoking book. Would we be prepared to put ourselves out as mocking birds and risk being targeted (like Atticus in his fight of justice for one man) or to protect a mocking bird (like Atticus for Mr Robinson and Mr Tate for Boo Radley)?
on 3 April 2014
To Kill a Mockingbird is a book about racial injustice told through the voice of a 6 year old girl (Scout) based in a small American town in the country.
The main plot is of the trial of a black man charged with assaulting a white girl. Atticus, Scouts father (and only parent) tries to defend the man accused. He is very much for racial equality, and puts together a fantastic and passionate defence for the man.
There are also many good sub-plots throughout the book. I cant remember too many off the top of my head, but one is of the children Scout and Jem being scared of the Radley's house, occupied by two elderly people whom nobody ever sees. The Radley's are key characters but are not integral to the key story. They help Scout and Jem in subtle ways in which it is not obvious to them. Guardian angels even!
There are also some great characters. Most notably Atticus, Scouts father 50 year old father. He is a very principled man, with values he lives by. But in general the way he deals with work, and the love he gives for his kids is an inspiration for anyone, especially single parents (like Atticus is).
Overall, the story does a really good job of showing prejudice in America at the time. This is the main take away from the book I think. But, and I think this is why it is studied so much, there are many subtle subplots and it touches on many different topics/issues/themes such as irrational fears, single parenthood, inequality, ignorance, and much more..
** I have given it 3 stars not because it is not a good book, but because personally I was not inspired by it. I enjoyed reading it but it was not a book I couldn't put down.
But I hope you read it, because lots of people have been inspired by it, and failing that its a book people talk about all the time so at least you'll have something to talk to them about!!
on 7 June 2013
If i was to describe this book, that is probably what I'd say. But this is what Amazon says
'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'
A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.
When beginning this book i was a bit like meh. its alright. It wasn't so gripping, but it was intruiging. I have not read an actual American classic, and i do this the dialect did actually make me want to read it, i think i read it in a southern /texas accent (i think thats the one im thinking of). The book begins with the main protagonist Jean Louis Finch, also known as Scout. The book doesn't have a particular plot in my opinion. it exploits judgment, namecalling and it praises those who have the decency to not follow that crowd. The message i got from this book was probably, 'no matter what happens, no matter how much stuff you may go through, you do NOT have the right to judge other people. Life isn't there for you to obsess on trivial matters. Respect those around you, respect the ones of a different color, a different age, a different gender, a different background. Because as Harper Lee says: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it"'
The point that touched me is the fact that Scout is SO young. she's 8. Yet she's so intelligent, so smart, sure of herself and confident despite the world she lives in. Her brother Jem, another stron character who faces the loss of his mother alongside people in the neighbourhood. He like Scout are stubborn and motivated to do the right thing enforced by their father Atticus. Now Atticus? where do we meet lawyers in the real world who WANT to do the right thing without incrimination. Without caring what is said. Harper Lee has bound together probably the strongest family bond i have seen. Racism is a huge deal today as it was then. Terrorists, Murderers, Rapists they're everywhere. The only thing thats probably changed in society is the amount of people who stand up to it. Yeah people have become more confident in sharing their voice. But the media makes an ordeal out of control. This influences many young people to pretty much go out and do exactly what they see, may it be as small as drinking underage, to religious extremists. Like the Finch family, every individual is influenced by what they see. The victim in Atticus' case was treated like a human by Tom the 'black man'. She appreciated this until she made physical contact with him. See a person can think bad things all they want, they can think of good things and evil things. but it is only when you act upon them you realise the extent of significance an action may have upon you and others.
Being indian myself, i have never actually experienced a racism attack upon myself. I live in an multicultural environment. I have black, white, muslim and sikh friends. But that is not what makes them my friends. The person itself is the only thing that should be important....which i think is what Ms. Lee is trying to say. Having this viewpoint seen through the eyes of an 8 year old is horrendous. I like how Scout is still an innocent bystander, yeah she hears her father being racially insulted. But she acts upon the fact her father is laughed upon rather than 'loving' another colour. Which she later understands. Another situation is when she hears about a classmate. she says he is poor, but too proud to borrow money. she then goes on to hurt him. and only when the teacher is annoyed by her defending of this child (funny how shes got the skills of a lawyer in her haha). She is unable to understand violence cannot resolve a matter, nor did she understand by explaining his situation she probably was well appreciated. but Atticus and Jem are key characters to her development and to her understanding
At one point in the book Miss Maudie (a neighbor) suggests 'Mockingbirds don't do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corn cribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' This point is significnt, in fact the whole title is. When Tom Robinson dies his death is 'likened...to the senseless slaught of songbirds by hunters and children'. the connection between the two is brutal, yet in my eyes it makes the novel. Tom Robinson is a mockinbird...actually no the colour of the skin is the mockingbird and the hunters and the children are those who agree with racism. The skin is the thing that doesnt eat gardens or nest in corncribs. it is the person who will sing their heart out and make music. In other words skin doesn't affect any thing, however a persons ability and attitude is the only thing we should focus on to question them/dislike them/like them. In other words, if their song is bad, they're bad people.
So i really did adore this book. and i think you should definatley check it out. Do not be put of by the 'classic' read aspect of it. Its pretty 'normal' in the sense that its readable no 'thy' 'thou' or 'shalt' aha. Definatley a recommendation
Has anyone read this? what are your thoughts
on 28 August 2004
This is quite simply one of the greatest novels in the English language. It's theme is racism and the impact it has on a small town in Alabama, seen through the eyes of the young daughter of a lawyer who defends a young black man falsely accused of raping a white girl. The actual trial does not take up all that much of the book - a larger part is related to a reclusive neighbour - Boo Radley - who has not been seen outside in a decade, and the children's attempts to draw him out, and to the towns attitude to Atticus, the children's father, who is reviled for making a genuine attempt to defend the accused. If there is any flaw, it is that the book is set in the late 1930s, and represents a world that has physically disappeared, of separate racial townships, civil war survivors and the first generation descendants of freed slaves. This could make some dismiss the message of the book as one that is no longer relevant, but that is simply not true - the world of segregated churchs, shown here, is still sadly going strong, while the ghettos may not be physically separate, and quite so obvious, but are still there. The same is true of the death penalty, still far more likely to be carried out on black rather than white criminals. This book still carries a punch. Also recommended: The Lovely Bones by Sebold, The Losers Club by Richard Perez
on 30 April 2015
If the majority of novels are set in dysfunctional families, this one takes place in a happy household. Narrator Scout, aged 8, says at one stage: "I found myself wondering....what I would do if [my father] Atticus did not feel the necessity of my presence, help and advice. Why he couldn't get along a day without me." Even though Atticus is a lawyer and, arguably, the most capable, trusted man in the town, his little (motherless) daughter feels he needs her.
But, if this family is well-balanced, the town of Maybury has an ugly problem - relations between whites and blacks. The action is set in the 1930s. The dramatic part of the narrative depicts Atticus defending falsely accused Tom, a black, on the capital charge of rape. In this context, most of the whites are prepared to see an innocent man convicted. The whites who break that pattern are, by and large, people who are so independent-minded (like Atticus and Scout) that they are seen as eccentrics.
Interestingly, the black families appear far less dysfunctional - despite the crosses they carry - than the white ones. And Scout notices one of the oddest things about the whites who rail at the treatment of Jews in Germany. She asks: "How can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home -?".