The first time I read this book was 10 years ago when I was studying for my GCSEs. I remember having to perform the courtroom scene for a speaking and listening assessment. It feels like yesterday! I can remember how it made me feel. It opened my eyes and my heart. I love this book – I didn’t think I could love it more, but ten years down the line it shows me that there’s more I understand in this book now, thus strengthening my love for it. I genuinely don’t understand why it has been taken off all the exam boards reading lists!
I’ve told the students in my class about this book, about how it changed me and started something special in my life – the love of reading. Slowly but surely my copy of the text is making its way around school, even to the most unsuspecting of characters who claim they “never read.”
With the highly anticipated ‘Go Set A Watchman’ being published this summer, I wanted to read this again in preparation. (Can not wait for this by the way!)
To Kill A Mockingbird is set in the Deep South of America during the 1930s with the narrator being a little girl, Scout. By having a child narrator we get to learn with her and understand the world as she does. The novel deals with the emotive portrayal of race and prejudice. Filled with morals and the teaching of many life lessons through Atticus, this novel succeeds in portraying a specific time and place as well as how good can triumph over evil. The book teaches that prejudice must be met, fought and overcome no matter how difficult it may be.
Scout Finch lives with her older brother Jem and her widowed lawyer father Atticus. It’s summertime and Jem and Scout are happily playing (a reoccurring image throughout the book), they make new friends and stumble across Boo Radley. Boo lives in a neighbouring house and yet is never seen. However, there are a number of rumours regarding him (such as a murderer and a child stealer). Atticus always reminds them to see the world through other people’s eyes. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Still as true today as it was 55 years ago when this book was written.
Scout struggles, but perseveres eventually to try and live life using the advice from her father. He is a model father, and uses childlike terms to help Scout understand what her father believes and the sole principle that he has to live his life.
Then, we meet Tom Robinson, a black man, who has been accused of raping a white woman. Atticus takes on the case of defending him, despite the fact that this causes problems for him and his family in terms of the actions of the community around them. The community, largely white, are incredibly racist and disagree with Atticus. And yet, “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
The trial takes up the majority of the book and as a reader I went through a range of emotions. I feel saddened that people could do anything like that, that people could dislike someone so much because of their skin colour, or tell lies to show who has the power in the community. I would like to think that today things have changed but this book, 55 years later, still makes me question modern society.
Atticus proves that Tom is not guilty, and that the woman seduced him. As her father finds out they twist the story as he was outraged that she wanted to try and sleep with a black man. The evidence was overwhelming in support of Tom but the white jury still condemn him to prison. He is later killed as he tries to escape. The woman’s father, furious about being disgraced in court, follows Scout and Jem home one evening and tries to harm them. However Boo, disarms him and kills him dead.
Boo is revealed for who he really is and boy is he great! Scout learns from Tom and Boo that it is better and more important to see people for who they really are, and now for how others see them. Another reason why this novel is timeless.
Boo and the mockingbirds are linked. “Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Like the innocent mockingbird, Boo embodies that same trait. He doesn’t harm anyone, he just protects. Yet he has been damaged by his abusive father. The is just one of the clever metaphors that run through the novel.
This novel is courageous, powerful, evocative, emotional. Atticus is inspirational. We all need someone like that in our lives – someone who believes that gVood will beat evil and that racism is unacceptable. He is the voice of moral consciousness in an age when the novel was written and it represented the hopes and dreams of those who wanted to end racism and segregation. Such a beautiful book. The whole world needs to read this. Now.