To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This review, surprisingly, was started before I had finished the novel. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those all-American classics, which is loved by all. As such, it comes as quite a shock (and a bit of shaming) that I can admit that this is my first read of the novel. I also haven’t seen the movie, as I wanted to read the novel first (even though reviews for both say they are equally stunning). I truly do not know how I made it so long without reading it. I can say though, that I am glad that I waited this long; classics didn’t fare very well with me in my younger years, and I fear that this novel would have been disliked for some strange reason. Reading it now, when my reading tastes have matured, I can say that this first read is definitely more appreciated now than it would have been years ago.
With a sequel coming out in July of this year titled Go Set a Watchman, I just had to catch up with the rest of the planet and read To Kill a Mockingbird. I didn’t want to leave it last minute as it is going to be a sought after book club read for sure!
That all being said, I apparently didn’t know what To Kill a Mockingbird was about. I was thinking that there was a murder in a small town that rocked the very core of the nation! There was no murder, and To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t truly about the crime that takes place in the novel; it is about the way people react to it and treat each other in a small town where prejudices run wild. A similar novel in nature is A Time to Kill by John Grisham. Both deal with the people in the story and the crime is more of a backdrop for a discussion on racial discrimination, humanity and its flaws. It is completely relatable in today’s society, and even better is that it was written 50+ years ago.
The story is told through the eyes of Scout, a young girl that is older (maturity-wise) than most characters in the novel. This is due, in part, because of her father: Atticus Finch, the world’s greatest fictional father figure. Initially I found this to be quite a shock, mostly in part because Atticus isn’t present a lot throughout the novel until closer to the end (for the trial). He is mostly seen coming and going; justifying his parenting tactics to neighbours and family members alike, or sitting in his favourite reading chair with a good book or newspaper. I think the reason that Atticus is such a great character is due to the fact that while he is not present in the children’s lives a lot, he is still the most caring and philosophical character in the novel; he is the everyman (hard working with a young family to provide for), and he packs quite a punch when trying to teach his children the ways of the world. These are done through his many memorable quotes throughout the novel. A few of my favourites are:
“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.” – To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” – To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Atticus is simply good to the core, in a world and town that doesn’t quite abide by his morality. It goes against the grain of society, as well as what people think Finches should be like. There are standards to uphold, and in passionately defending Tom Robinson, he is not upholding said standards. He is breaking the mould, both in his convictions and his actions. Because even though Atticus was chosen to defend Robinson by the courts, he is doing so because he wants to.
To Kill a Mockingbird is also a true and passionate examination on the changes from childhood to adulthood. It was so accurate and yet heartbreaking when Jem finally comes to the realization as to why Boo Radley has never been seen leaving his home. It was heartbreaking to watch the disintegration of the idealized view of their local county and neighbours. We would all like to keep our rose-coloured glasses on that we wear as children, but soon adulthood encroaches and those glasses are slowly removed. To see Jem and Scout’s innocence slowly breakdown is something entirely relatable and powerful in To Kill a Mockingbird. It is something that is going to hit home with every reader.
I really cannot believe that it took me this long to read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but I can say that it was definitely worth the wait. This is a classic that all should read. We all have a little bit of Scout and Jem in us, and I hope that a lot of us are lucky enough to have some Atticus.