Review: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Friday, 9 January 2015

About the Book:
Title: To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Series: N/A
Genre: Coming of age, Southern drama, Drama, Historical Fiction
Age Range: 13+
Publication Date: July 11th 1960
Pages: 322 pages
Publisher: J.B. Lippincott

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it.


To Kill A Mockingbird was the kind of book that always existed to me in my peripheral world of literature, and of course I knew it had to be read at some point, and I don't think I could have picked a better time. A lot of the more 'adult' books I read seem to be from the viewpoint of a child, and I think this suits me right now. At seventeen years old I'd be lying if I said I understood the thought process of all adult's perfectly, and while I can mostly, a child's perspective suits me more. The honesty of children, due to either their misunderstanding, or incomprehension of situations means they give a more direct account, and while this can be frustrating for someone who is more mature and therefore irritated by some of their immature decisions, I can always relate to their way of thinking and understand where they are coming from.

Like I mentioned before, Scout's age can lead me to dislike her a little, and while I did at times (especially her inability to understand that sometimes you have to act different ways around different people), mostly she was refreshingly sincere. I identified with her struggle of having to act like a lady, something she has to do, but something I can elect not to if I don't wish to. Although I much preferred her brother; Jem. It may have been the fact that he is the character we see the most of, apart from Scout, and I preferred his maturity, but his despair at the injustice of the court case was something I understood and sympathised with like nothing else. Although he is younger than me, I recently experienced something similar with the Ferguson and other killings of coloured people in America, steered by an institutionalised racism, and found myself unable to comprehend why people would do that, and how on earth they could think that way. Seeing another thinking a similar thing was both a comfort, and Atticus' words of advice resonated with me also. I enjoyed that Atticus was a model of a perfect lawyer, perhaps simply because I am bored of lawyers getting a bad reputation from novels, and always being portrayed as a perpetual liar. Although most of the female characters were more secondary I enjoyed the variety, and that characters such as Miss Maudie and Calpurnia can be strong and independent while still being feminine. Also although I did not like her for much of the book, towards the end Aunt Alexandra grew on me. The way she handled hearing about Tom Robinson's death, as she was clearly shocked and shaken, but threw her head and shoulders back is a lesson everyone could learn from. She conforms to society - but should this necessarily be a bad thing? It shows her intelligence in that she understands the world she lives in and has made the best of it

The court trial of Tom Robinson is a central point to the plot, besides from the mystery of Boo Radley, and is oddly, and sadly, still echoed in twenty first century society. A main source of frustration for, especially Jem and Atticus, is that even before the trial has started they know the jury is going to be biased against him in a staggering form of racial injustice. With all the horrible things going on in America it angered me to see that around 80 years after the book is set, and 50 after it was written these things are still happening. I think it shows the relevance of the book, and that everyone could still learn something from it. It strengthened my belief that books not only reflect the time they were written and set, for the 1960s was where a lot of the black civil rights movement was going on, but also bring to light things in any society.

Another theme that pleased me was that of gender. Possibly ahead of her time, Scout seems to grasp the basic concept of feminism far better than some people I know today. She balances the masculine and feminine influences in her life to strike the balance she is happy with. Scout recognises that some of the expectations put on her are unfair, but she also grows to appreciate that she shouldn't dismiss traditionally feminine values entirely; such as the ability to be polite in any situation, remaining stoic under pressure and the possibly overlooked skill of small talk (something personally I need much help with). 

Despite thematically this being spot on, and character-wise faultless there were almost remedial plot points that perhaps lessened my enjoyment. Certainly at the beginning of the novel, it was hard to give it a direction, obviously there would be some sort of resolution concerning Boo Radley and later we also the Robinson case, but at points I felt like I was reading a kind of personal diary that could potentially go on all day. I was also slightly disappointed that the Dill/Scout storyline was not resolved, though of course they were very young so nothing could be resolved, it very much felt as though it was left hanging. 

But otherwise, this book was technically one of the finest I've read, and definitely one I would say everyone should read at some point in there lives as there is always something in here for someone to latch onto.


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