Friday, October 28, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The only thing I knew going into this book was that it was about a white lawyer defending a black man in the South. I expected it to be gritty and so held my breath for the first half of the book; If I'd known that the trial would not be as tawdry as expected, I would have enjoyed the book that much more.

Atticus Finch is a small-time lawyer in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. He is a gentle, book-loving widower who never sets out to promote himself. But because of his firm conviction that all people are created equal, he takes on the "lost cause" case of Tom Robinson who is accused of raping a white woman. Finch is the hero of the novel, but there are many others who are equally as heroic in their quiet ways. In fact, I don't think Atticus is the main character as much as a mirror from which we see reflected all the other characters.

Scout and Jem's mother has passed away and their absent-minded (but loving) father spends little time on developing their manners and social graces, much to the horror of his sister Alexandra. I tried my hardest to hate the small profanities coming out of Scout's mouth, but the more I read, the more I saw how pitch perfect Lee's writing was in giving voice to a young motherless girl growing up without much parental intervention.

Scout may not have had a lot of input from her daddy on how to speak like a lady, but the book makes it very clear that he had a powerful influence of another kind. Because of his strong stance on helping the weak, both of his children learn hard lessons about human nature. When Jem  (the older brother) is "forced" to read to a cranky elderly lady as a punishment for ruining her flowers, he begins to learn compassion. Jem's coming-of-age through various difficult events was one of my favorite parts of this book.

Through Atticus the children learn that:

(1) People aren't always as bad (or good) as they seem.

(2) Life isn't Fair - though Atticus had used every legal tool available to save Tom Robinson, he could not influence the secret courts of men hearts. (p. 241)

(3) Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand - It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. (p. 112)

Harper Lee introduces us to many brave people who will work their way into your heart. No wonder this book is considered a classic. I'm still astonished that Lee could write such a sad story with so much humor, wisdom, pathos and beauty. Remarkable. 

Keep in mind this novel was banned for its use of the N word, but much like Huck Finn, the word was used to reflect the times, but not the author's view which is clearly against racial inequality.


Unknown said...

Thank you. I've never finished this, it's time to try it again soon.

Carol in Oregon said...

I appreciate your reviews so much. It is lovely to see the book through your eyes. Thanks, Hope!

Barbara H. said...

I just read this for the first time a few years ago and loved it. So many great facets.

Rachel said...

I read this earlier this year and loved it! Glad you liked it too :)