Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a classic of American literature, dealing with the silent and prevalent plague of racism in the Great-Depression-era Deep South. Told through the eyes of young Scout and Jem, the novel created one of America’s most respectable fictional heroes- Atticus Finch, the upstanding, intelligent, and determined lawyer, dedicated to righting the wrongs of the South.

This novel deals with many complex themes- especially the theme of morality. Atticus Finch, the single father of Scout and Jem, is an upstanding, respectable, and almost irritatingly moral figure in his community. He is seen as a lone beacon of justice and light in his community because of his values. Another theme in the novel is that of humanity’s base instinct of right and wrong- beyond what is outlined in the law. This is clearly shown when Atticus chooses to defend Tom, the black man accused of raping a white woman.

Even though this book is highly lauded on many different platforms, I would not give it an incredible rating. First of all, I was not a big fan of Atticus- even though every single townsperson in the novel gushed about how Scout and Jem were so incredibly lucky to have such a moral, upstanding, and intelligent father, I did not concur. Sure, Atticus was most definitely all of those things- but he seemed more like the idea of a father rather than a real father: he was a personality before he was a person, so to speak. He was cold and aloof towards his children- he did not seem to provide Scout or Jem any real love or guidance through the novel outside of faux-profound moral platitudes. In addition, the book overall had an undertone of condescension and white saviorism that I really did not appreciate. However, this book was written in the 1960s- so it is understandably less progressive than what we would expect today. Even though I didn’t much enjoy this book, I would definitely recommend that you read it- it is still a window to not-so-past times, and can help us better understand what we need to do to confront racism in our world today.

-Vaidehi B.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout at Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

What effects do the children’s perspectives have on the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

**This post assumes that you have already read the novel**

Children are often considered inferior to adults, yet they have so many positive and beneficial qualities that adults have unfortunately lost, resulting in the development of many negative aspects in society. The realistic fiction novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee narrates the trial of Tom Robinson. The speaker, Scout Finch, recounts the events preceding the trial, the trial itself, as well as what happens after the trial. Although the central event is the trial of Tom Robinson and the injustice faced by colored people in America, Harper Lee cleverly implements the themes of courage, coming of age, and perspective. Specifically, the voice of young Scout Finch and the actions and dialogue of the rest of the children provide perspectives of innocence and impartiality, as well as a strong moral compass to portray societal aspects in a unique way.

Scout’s naive mindset allows readers to understand the events of the novel as they are, without the influence of prior biases. This genuinity enables readers to have a clear understanding of the unjust actions in Maycomb’s society. One such example is provided when Scout recognizes Mr. Cunningham in the group of people who arrive at the jail where Tom Robinson is being kept. Although she provides some background facts on Mr. Cunningham, Scout does not state her specific opinions or thoughts about him. She does not describe the group’s intentions, nor does she explicitly say that they are a mob–she simply describes what is happening. Harper Lee created the character of Scout as an honest young girl. With Scout’s unbiased account of events, readers are able to use their prior knowledge and develop their own opinions and understandings on the intentions and morals of the group. Many works addressing the topic of stereotypes and prejudice have authors writing with an argumentative tone, so the open-mindedness of Scout’s narration provides a sincere perspective, allowing readers to evaluate the negatively segregating aspect of society in a new way.

In addition to Scout, the rest of the children’s actions are highly notable. They place strong emphasis on morals and ethical behavior. Arguably, one of the most momentous examples of children displaying ethical behavior in the novel is woven in Dill’s disappointed and angry reaction with the way Mr. Gilmer is talking during the trial. Dill is not quite as young and naive as Scout, nor is he as understanding and observant as Jem, so his behavior during the trial is very significant to the theme of justice. On the other hand, Jem is a character whose growth and increasing comprehension is a major part of the novel, yet he is still young enough to not have caught “Maycomb’s usual disease”: the racial prejudice in Maycomb. His earnestness is seen in his reaction to Tom Robinson’s verdict: he starts to cry, and says that it is very wrong. With his comparatively higher level of maturity and understanding, Jem’s behavior again depicts the immorality of Tom Robinson’s case. In turn, it depicts the immorality of many aspects of society, especially the aspect of racism, stereotypes, and assumptions. 

Children are considered the epitome of innocence, kindness, morality, and ethics. The use of children in To Kill A Mockingbird unveils an aspect of society otherwise obscured by prior judgements, influence, stereotypes, expectations, prejudice, and much more. A youthful voice allows for readers to evaluate multiple aspects of society in a new way, and it also ensures a strong sense of morality throughout the novel. The use of children’s perspectives in Harper Lee’s work help to emphasize the just and unjust aspects of society, and readers also acquire significant insight into these aspects. Memories and qualities may fade away, but insight is never lost, and people will be able to adopt habits to improve their ways. After all, if children’s qualities are so admired, it only makes sense to make an effort to eradicate the negative effects the absence of these qualities have on society.

-Ayati M.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Authors We Love: Harper Lee

The Measure Of Harper Lee: A Life Shaped By A Towering Text : The ...

Harper Lee (Nelle Harper Lee, on April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016) was born in 1926 in the southern United States in a small town in Alabama. Published in 1960, the only novel in her life “To Kill a Mockingbird” made her won great reputation and the Pulitzer prize for fiction. The novel has been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

Her father was a lawyer and a former state legislator. After graduating from local public schools, Harper Lee studied law at the University of Alabama and spent a year as an exchange student at Oxford University in England. Six months before graduating, she left school and moved to New York to pursue her writing dream. She writes while working as an airline reservation clerk in New York. Encouraged by friends and editors, she returned to her hometown in Alabama to write stories based on fragments of her childhood. Her masterpiece was “To Kill a Mockingbird”, released in 1960. The book is still one of the greatest American novels ever written. For 40 years, she has never given an interview, although paparazzi have tracked her down to where she lives with her sister Alice in Monroeville, Alabama. She was single and childless.

In 1961, Harper Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

In 2007, Harper Lee received the Medal of Freedom from US President George W. bush for her literary achievements.

The works of Harper Lee are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel, published in 1960 by Harper Lee, deserves every ounce of fame it has thus far received. Although the subjects that are addressed by the novel are shrouded by controversy, it addressed issues that needed to be addressed, such as racism and the crimes that can be committed under its name.

The novel is told from the perspective of six-year-old Caucasian Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the most reliable lawyer in her town, Maycomb. He takes on a case defending a black man who is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, and this sends the entire population of their town into a frenzy. Scout and her brother, Jem, experience the metaphorical splitting of the town as everyone takes a side. They are attacked and harassed for the actions of their father.

The plot deepens and thickens, unfolding with an uncanny message: racism is a real issue, and it remains as such, even though To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. In fact, Scout and Jem are attacked at night and nearly killed in retaliation of their father’s case. The town is violently over-involved in Atticus Finch’s case, and most of its citizens actually attend the trial for sport and entertainment. People are quick to take sides and are adamant and passionate about whichever one they end up on.

To Kill A Mockingbird is also semi-autobiographical- Scout’s childhood is based loosely off of Harper Lee’s. However, Lee quickly became reclusive due to her book’s fame and all the attention it received. The novel was groundbreaking, but Harper Lee hardly did any interviews, book signings, or any public event of the sort. In fact, Harper Lee was barely involved in the making of the movie adaption of the novel, which became a box-office hit (it made over three times its budget!).

Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is a magnificent literary tapestry, with intricately woven characters and artfully spun plots and subplots. It addresses issues that were relevant in its time and, some may argue, even more, relevant today. It is a novel that has affected people’s lives, in ways that are clear but also subconscious, and has educated many on the subject of racism amid the early 1930s.

-Arushi S.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Most of the books I’m required to read in school seem forced and I usually don’t end up enjoying them. However, I relished almost every word in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I realize that it may be one of the most widely-read classics of American —literature, but wanted others my age to learn that they can, in fact, enjoy something if they take it to heart.

The plot revolves around a fictional, Southern town called Maycomb in the 1930s. One reason this book is special is not only that it’s written in the perspective of a white person, it’s also written in the perspective of a child. Scout, a white girl living with her father, Atticus, and her brother, Jem, tells the story of her childhood.

One of the main themes that resonated with me was the innocence and compassion of children growing up. Scout is headstrong and seems to be more boy than girl. As a young girl, she spends most of her days playing with Jem and her neighbor, Dill around their town, and especially around the mysterious Radley house. However, Scout’s father, a lawyer is assigned a new case, and most of the book focuses on how it affects the prejudiced town. Scout learns not everything is black and white, even though most of the citizens of Maycomb think so.

Many may argue that the book is about racism and some argue that racism is only a theme present in the book. I think it was mostly about childhood innocence and the beautiful, innocent perspective of ethics through a child. I saw the book as cleverly written with humorous parts in addition to some beautiful, thought-provoking quotes that I have totally taken to heart.

The one thing in the book that totally changed my life was actually a character: Atticus. Atticus was consistent, compassionate, and extremely wise. More often than not, his expansive vocabulary confused Jem and Scout, but the lessons he verbalizes throughout the book are priceless, usually getting them to come up with opinions of their own. According to the rest of the town, Atticus isn’t raising his children right. But I couldn’t disagree more.

Atticus said, “‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

– Megan A.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available at the Mission Viejo Library.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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.

-Jessica T.

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

Book vs. Movie: To Kill a Mockingbird

killamockingbird_harperleeAs a required reading book for 9th grade English, I was not too excited to read this novel. All my friends who had already read it said it was great. But to tell you the truth, I did not believe them. For my class, we had to annotate each chapter, and by chapter 2, I was already annoyed with the book.

But please don’t follow my footsteps. This is a great book! I soon found out why. I know others have written reviews on the novel, but as a brief summary, this book is about the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama. Here, Atticus, the father of Jem and Scout, is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, against the accusation of raping Mayella Ewell. Through the novel, Atticus has to guide his children who are exposed to the racial inequality felt in the south in the 1930s. The children are disgusted by what they see of the real world and look to their father to help make sense of what they experience.

The novel was wildly successful when it was published and made into a movie in 1962, starring Gregory Peck. As part of my English class, we had the opportunity to watch this film in addition to reading the book. To me, the movie and the book both offer great benefits.

Reasons the book is better:

  1. You get to know the characters better, because more description is given, and you read the narrator’s (Scout’s) thoughts.
  2. More emphasis is given to show the separation between whites and blacks in the town.
  3. The book focuses more on the other lessons taught by the novel, incorporating the visit to the Finch’s Landing and the arrival of Aunt Alexandra, whereas the movie eliminates this all together, focusing instead on Tom’s trial and Boo Radley.

Reasons the movie is better:

  1. You see a physical description of Maycomb and its inhabitants, as well as getting a better understanding of the culture in the South.
  2. ***SPOILER***The scenes with Bob Ewell and his confrontation with Atticus and the attack against the children are scarier on screen.
  3. The relationship between Scout, Jem and Atticus is more pronounced, which makes the story more touching.

So it’s up to you…for those of you who have read/watched both the book and the movie, which was better in your opinion? Normally, I would automatically say the book was better. But in this case, I don’t know which one wins in my book.

– Leila S., 9th grade

To Kill A Mockingbird is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360