Nov 29

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee


Picture 4
First Published in 1960
Publisher: J. B. Lippincott & Co.
Set in: Maycomb, Alabama, USA. 1930s
Won the Pulitzer Prize 1961

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Book synopsis:

”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 this enchanting classic – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl.

Thorough 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…

bunny Why I like this book:

I have a long affiliation with To Kill a Mockingbird. I studied it in secondary school, then in Junior College I was in the drama club production of it. I had two lines: “Scout’s daddy defends niggers!’ and “Slut!”. And in February 2010, I will be playing Scout at The Drama Centre in Singapore. This is why I recently read the book again, as well as the play version by Christopher Sergel.

I enjoyed reading To Kill A Mockingbird all three times I have read it. I was 14 the first time and found the first few pages too confusing, so I skipped the first chapter going on to thoroughly enjoy the rest of the novel.

The play is very much a watered down version of the thick Southern atmosphere and action of the novel. It’s very much like watching movie versions of good books you’ve read, they rarely compare.

The book however is extremely lulling and comfortable. [I know this is a strange description for a book about the injustice of racism, but the 'goodie' characters whom you get to know throughout the novel, who live in this sleepy town of Maycomb, are lulling in nature and they do make you comfortable to know that there good people in this world.] It’s full of good natured and upright characters in an unjust and colour-coded world. The children, brother and sister Scout/Jean Louise and Jem with their little friend Dill, speak from a confused and innocent child’s perspective. They learn how they should live and discover the world in which they want to live in. This is one of the most important aspects of the book, that to a child, race doesn’t mean anything unless it is cultivated . Children are taught to be racist, or they learn to be racist, the blank slate is filled with whatever it touches.

To Kill a Mockingbird possesses the danger of becoming preachy with Atticus their father, and their neighbour Miss Maudie extolling pearls of wisdom on behaviour and conduct. However, as a reader you understand that there are people like the bigoted Bob Ewel, and then there are sympathetic and honest people like Atticus. He has little influence on a public scale, but is able to hold on to his personal integrity and ideals, and more importatly educate his children so they grow into compassionate adults. He leads by example and you respect him for that.

Harper Lee’s handling of this subject matter ironically necessitates this kind of black and white approach with the characters behaviour. As an educational and growing tool, I think this is a crucial textbook to life – these kinds of accusations and sham trials actually occurred in 1930s America, and beyond, I was shocked to find out – from the false accusation of the Scottsboro boys, to the brutal murder of Emmett Till (whose white killers walked away scott free). I think this book will stay in the school literature syllabuses for a long long while.

To Kill a Mockingbird’s content is infuriating, charming and admirable. This novel has been described as having two parts, a trial story with Atticus defending the black Tom Robinson who is accused of raping a white girl, and a kind of distant love story between Boo Radley and the children. I want to be as noble as Atticus, as free spirited as Scout and secretly I identify with the reclusive and elusive Boo Radley.

x Julie

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