Review of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

As part of my holiday reading, I said I was going to read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ followed by ‘Go Set a Watchman.’  Well, as I have just finished ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ I thought I would share my thoughts.

For those who don’t know the story, it is told through the eyes of Scout, a young 8 year old girl who lives with her brother Jem and her father Atticus Finch, in the town of Maycomb in Alabama.   Atticus is a lawyer and a very upright, moral and caring man.  We don’t know anything about their mother, other than that she is dead and Scout doesn’t remember much about her at all.   Atticus is the lynchpin of the family and although strict, shows great affection and love to his two children.  Atticus is called on to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, who is accussed of raping a girl, Mayella Ewell.   Meanwhile Scout, Jem and their friend Dill, who visits during the summer, are obsessed with childish games and trying to see Boo Radley, the mysterious man who lives down their street, but never appears in public.  As the case of Tom Robinson goes to court, Scout, Jem and Dill are to find their innocence shattered forever and their lives caught up in the evil ways of certain people in their society.

Re-reading this book confirmed for me why Harper Lee is such a phenomenon and why this Pulitzer Prize winning novel is so popular.   The voice of Scout is perfectly pitched.  The novel is full of humour, acute observations about the human spirit and how sincere goodness in a person can have a profound impact on individuals in a society.

I adore the character of Atticus Finch.  A loving father and an upstanding member of society, he quotes some of the most memorable lines of the book such as:

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. 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.”

During the court case, Atticus shows up the deep racism that exists and how the judgement of a man because of the colour of his skin is entirely wrong.  He is calm, composed and articulate, but he is also realistic, and seems to me almost resigned to the racism that exists in this small town.   For me, Atticus is a hero.  He never falters and in a cynical world he is someone we can all have faith in.

It was revelatory to read this wonderful novel again.  So many themes to consider, great characters and an engrossing story make this one of my favourite reads of the year.  To anyone who has never read it, I say, do yourself a favour and read it now.   It is a classic for a good reason.