'To Kill a Mockingbird' Review

To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird. HarperCollins

Harper Lee's coming-of-age tale, To Kill a Mockingbird, is set in the Deep South, and is a searing portrayal of race and prejudice told through the eyes of a little girl. Filled with atmospheric evocations of life in the 1930s and a moral and caring sensibility, To Kill a Mockingbird is both a brilliant rendering of a specific time and place as well as a universal tale of how understanding can triumph over old and evil mindsets.

Above all, To Kill a Mockingbird is a modern-day morality tale of how prejudice must be met, fought and overcome--no matter where it is present or how difficult that task might seem.

Overview: To Kill a Mockingbird

Scout Finch lives with her father, a lawyer and widower by the name of Atticus, and her brother, a young boy named Jem. The first part of the To Kill a Mockingbird tells of one summer. Jem and Scout play, make new friends, and first come to know of a shadowy figure by the name of Boo Radley, who lives in a neighboring house and yet is never seen. A number of bad rumors surround this man (he is rumored to be a runaway murderer, who steals children), but their fair-minded father warns them that they should try to see the world from the other people's perspectives.

Tom Robinson: To Kill a Mockingbird

Another plot line involves a young black man named Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a white woman.

Atticus takes on the case, despite the vitriol this arouses in the largely white, racist townsfolk because he believes that there has been a serious miscarriage of justice. Given the cold-shoulder by their white neighbors, the Finches are welcomed into the black community, and Scout is amazed by the feeling of cohesion and happiness that these poor, oppressed people are able to muster.

When the time of the trial comes round, Atticus proves that the girl that Tom Robinson is accused of raping actually seduced him, and that the injuries to her face were caused by her father, angry that she tried to sleep with a black man.

Despite the overwhelming evidence provided at the trial, however, the all-white jury nevertheless convicted Robinson; and he is later killed whilst trying to escape from jail. Meanwhile, the girl's father, who held a grudge against Atticus because of some of the things he said in court, waylays Scout and Jem as they walk home one night. It is clear that he wants to do them harm, but they are saved by the mysterious Boo, who disarms their attacker and kills him.

Scout finally comes face to face with the enigmatic figure of which she was so scared, and realizes that he is just a kindly man, who has been kept away from the world because of a mental retardation that makes him appear simple. The lesson that Scout learns from both Tom Robinson's fate and her new found friend, is the importance of seeing people how they are, and not being blinded by the fears and misunderstandings of prejudice.

Experience Growing Up: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is enormously touching and powerful in its simplicity.

Because it is narrated by young Scout, we are able to grow up and come to an understanding about the world in the same way that she does, creating order from the chaos of her everyday life.

The novel has a courageous and powerful political message about the downtrodden lives of African-Americans in 1930s America, and the prejudice and fear they faced every day. We also see a memorable heroic figure in Atticus Finch, a man of conscience raised to the level of crusader or idol.

In his quiet strength, he believes in the innate goodness of human beings that pushes him to defend Tom Robinson despite the approbation of his peers and to implore his children to try and see the good in Boo Radley. He became the voice of moral conscious in the age that the book was written and represented the ideals and hopes of the liberal classes who hoped to see the end of segregation and racism.

Beautifully written, evocative, tender, but with a passionate message that drives the novel's action, To Kill a Mockingbird is rightfully a much loved and much-studied classic. A tale of childhood, but also a tale of how the world should be (and how we can change it), the book lives on in the hearts of those who have read it well after the final page has been turned.

Study Guide