To Kill a Mockingbird
This is just a brief review of a beloved classic, mostly because I doubt I can add anything new to previous reviews. Today I’m just sharing my personal reaction to a book I loved, and offering encouragement to young readers who are reading it for the first time, probably for school.
I can’t even guess how many people have reviewed and praised this book, but I will tell you that this is another one of the best books ever written. If you have never read To Kill a Mockingbird, go ahead and crack it open. Set in 1935, in the fictional town of Macomb, Alabama, Harper Lee writes of people and family, of prejudice against blacks, of judgment and justice, of lost innocence, and of heroes.
Harper Lee uses the voice of young Scout Finch to tell this story and Scout’s observations, which are sometimes naïve and always smart, to give us an insider’s view into the complicated relationships that exist between blacks and whites, between the poor and the poorer, and between the educated, the illiterate and the ignorant.
Like many other readers, I love Atticus Finch’s character. He’s wise and humble and kind and hides nothing from Scout and her older brother Jem. He treats them as adults and they have a maturity beyond their years because of it.
Besides Atticus, Scout and Jem, there are many characters to like for their wisdom and kindness – Calpurnia, Boo Radley, Miss Maudie Atkinson, for example. There are many to dislike because they are prejudiced or ignorant – Mr. Avery, Mrs. Merriweather, Miss Stephanie Crawford, Aunt Alexandra. And there is one to hate, Bob Ewell, who accuses a young black man, Tom Robinson, of raping his daughter and whose own hatred towards blacks and most of the town of Macomb takes this story into the courtroom.
Here’s my advice if you’re in high school and you’re reading this for the first time. Take the time to know what’s going on. Use a guide to keep track of the characters. Go back and re-read what you didn’t get the first time. Why? Because once you get the frame of the story in your head, you will start to understand the meaning of Harper Lee’s words and you will discover how invested you’ve become in these characters. Once you reach that point, you will find yourself reacting to them as if they were real people, and you will discover that the events and their actions in this book cross over from fiction to reality. That’s great writing!
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