Taken place in imaginary Maycomb, Alabama in the middle of the Great Depression, racism, prejudice, hypocrisy, innocence and sorrow all integrate in Harper Lee’s profound novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The story is narrated by Jean Louise “Scout” Finch as an adult but the story is solely a memory, told through her eyes as a six year old. Two main story lines are incorporated in this novel; both proving to teach Scout and her brother, Jem, lessons about life’s trials, obstacles and triumphs.
One story line digs deep into the issue of segregation and hatred. While a majority of Scout’s town and schoolmates, all being White, show blunt partiality and disgust towards African Americans in their society, her father, Atticus Finch, must uphold his personal moral responsibilities. He does this proudly and sensibly as he represents a falsely accused African American named Tom Robinson as his defense attorney in a court case. Young Scout learns that courage and bravery is not always fighting with guns but instead, is standing up for what you believe is right, no matter the cost or who stands with you.
The second storyline acts as a form of entertainment and mystery to Scout, Jem and their close friend, Dill, in the beginning of the story. However, by the end of the novel, lessons of acceptance, kindness and ignoring false misconceptions are heeded. A couple doors down from Scout’s house lives a mysterious family named the Radley’s who, despite being White, are discriminated against and have earned a negative reputation for being untrustworthy and abnormal. The three children, particularly interested in the son, Arthur “Boo” Radley, who is rumored to be locked up in the house by his father, play games and create dares in attempt to make him come out of his house. They find this exhilarating until Atticus tells them to stop harassing Boo and that they must respect the Radley’s despite the gossip about them that circulates through the lips of those living in Maycomb. Throughout the book, odd surprises lead the children to come to the conclusion that Boo is kindhearted but too broken to show his compassion like a normal person would.
Overall, Harper Lee does a superb job of utilizing Scout’s innocence and eagerness to explore the world around her to present the audience with a genuine piece of historical fiction that opens up the audience’s mind to topics such as prejudice, coming of age and morality. Harper Lee’s authentic writing style helps readers to understand the issue at hand by making each character quite profound and unique. This book is definitely a must-read for adolescents and adults alike.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive and Hoopla.