Monday, August 2, 2010

Review of To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary EditionThis year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, one of the great novels of American literature. The story centers on the defense of a black man in Depression-era Alabama, who is accused of raping a white woman. A local lawyer, Atticus Finch, agrees to defend Tom Robinsion even though he knows that an acquittal is virtually impossible in the South of the 1930s. When asked by a neighbor why he is doing something that will only anger the town, he states: “[Even though] you’re licked before you begin, you begin anyway, and you see it through no matter what.” It is simply a matter of a decent man doing the right thing.

The heart of the story belongs to Atticus's six-year old daughter, Scout, her older brother Jem, and a visitor, Dill (based on Harper Lee’s friend, Truman Capote). Although they are merely children, they sense that a great injustice is about to descend on the head of Tom Robinson, whose only crime is that he is black. Forbidden by their father to attend the trial, they sit in the “colored gallery” in the courtroom and watch as Atticus destroys the case against Robinson.

Foreshadowing the tragedy that will soon unfold, when his children receive air rifles for Christmas, Atticus tells them that they can “shoot all the blue jays they want,” but they must remember that “it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.”  As a neighbor explains, “They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” To Kill a Mockingbird is not a story about justice, because there is none, but individual courage and the death of innocence.

This is Harper Lee's one and only novel, but when you write a masterpiece your first time out, it is enough.

6 comments:

  1. I am currently reading this novel, I'm halfway through, and I really like it so far. It features very engaging characters. Atticus is such a great role model, I think.

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  2. I completely agree! It is such a moving story! I love so many parts of it. Have you seen the movie with Gergory Peck?

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  3. I actually saw the movie before I read the novel. I love Gregory Peck, and Boo Radley was played by Robert Duvall. I think that was his break-through role. Unlike many people who are commenting on other blogs, it was not assigned reading in high school, so I am glad to know that many schools are assigning it. Thanks for commenting.

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