To Kill a Mockingbird review

By Emma Brooks

This week time to review an old classic and one of my favourite – if not my favourite – book of all times. Incidentally, the book also recently celebrated its 50th anniversary having been published in 1960.

It’s hard to know where to start with this book, considering the magnitude of the story and the underlying message behind it. It’s fair to say that when Harper Lee published the book in 1960, she definitely touched upon a then-sensitive subject and caused quite a bit of controversy. Nonetheless, its reception was instantly successful as she won the Pulitzer Prize for it, and the book then went on to be translated into ten different languages only a year after its publication. Fifty years later the book still enjoys the same success and has been set as a classroom book (even that didn’t manage to destroy my love for it).

So what is the story? Set in Alabama, our main character and narrator is six-year-old Scout Finch, spending a happy summer with her brother and their friends and telling us what they got up to that year. It all starts with them wanting to make Boo Radley come out of his house, as young kids want to do those daring yet scary type of things.

Boo Radley is the local scary neighbour of whom everyone has heard tales, and yet no one is sure if he really exists. He lives as a recluse in his house and nobody really knows if he is actually there and if he is quite mad.The children try to tease Boo out of his house and dare each other to get closer and closer but to no avail. However, it turns out that Boo has noticed their activities and shows signs that he is aware of their presence.

The story that Harper Lee tells is that of the simple day-to-day lives of a family living in Alabama and their surrounding neighbours. But unfortunately at that time in the United States, Alabama was still subject to heavy discrimination between blacks and whites, and ongoing racism that seemed quite natural to the white people living there. This is really what Harper Lee is trying to uncover and illustrate in her story.

Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, is a lawyer by profession. He is good man with strong moral values who believes in doing good and using his status to help those in need. This is how it comes to pass that he becomes a lawyer for a black man who is accused of raping a white girl. Needless to say this is hugely frowned upon and the neighbours start to make fun of Atticus calling him a “nigger-lover” and taunting Scout and her brother for their father’s actions.

It’s hard for them to understand exactly what is going on, but they are aware that it is something important in their lives, and decide to go and secretly watch their father during the trial. So it appears that their father is doing a good job of defending his client and proving his innocence, though of course this does not go down well at all with the locals. What follows is an unfolding tail of heroism, love and compassion of which I dare not give away too much.

In this book Harper Lee manages to cover many different subjects, including racism: she does a wonderful job of tackling a subject that at the time was unspoken and that people would not admit to. She covers the idea of law and duty, how one can use the law in a good and just way to uphold one’s values.

She also covers the subjects of love and compassion in a way that is truly moving. It is not a classic depiction of love that we can imagine; rather she shows us what people would do for each other in times of need, how far they will go to save people that are dear to them or people that they believe in. It is a very moving story which reminds us that books also have the power to make us cry.

Fifty years on this book does not get old and deserves a continued huge success. It teaches generations who did not live through the earlier years of racism what exactly it was like, and reminds us all of the importance of treating others fairly.

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