‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’
A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
So it seems that I have read this book just as it is in the eye of the UK curriculum storm. In case you haven’t already heard about it in the social media buzz, the UK education department has decided to drop 3 American Classics in an attempt to make the reading lists more British (TIME magazine article).
Now, coming to my thoughts on the book. What can I say or write about this book that hasn’t already been said or written before ? But here goes anyway …..
It takes a while for the story to actually build up and gain pace and during that time I found myself dreading the fact whether I will end up disliking the book given its reputation. But beyond a point I fell in love with it and it has now found itself to my all-time favourites list (meaning that for a while if anyone asks for a recommendation, I’m going to be sending this book their way !).
Jean-Louise Finch a.k.a “Scout” is probably one of the most adorable characters you will encounter in fiction. She is an incorrigible tomboy with such innocence that it will make your heart melt. A spunky kid who will pick a fight with anyone who insults her father Atticus or her brother Jem. The struggle of Jem and Scout to understand racism reminded me of Rufus from A Death in the Family – both illustrate how children simply don’t get the rationale behind the racist behaviour of adults.The character of Atticus Finch is one to be admired and it reminded me of the saying “All it requires for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing”
The writing is simple and doesn’t exactly have literary flair but that doesn’t get in the way of some great storytelling. And like I have always maintained even when writing about other books, give me well-etched, real characters and I will be happy. Here is one of my favourite paragraphs from the book
I remembered something Jem had once explained to me when he went through a brief period of psychical research: he said if enough people – a stadium full, maybe – were to concentrate on one thing, such as setting a tree afire in the woods, that the tree would ignite of its own accord. I toyed with the idea of asking everyone below to concentrate on setting Tom Robinson free, but thought if they were as tired as I, it wouldn’t work.
I haven’t seen the movie adaptation yet but hoping to watch it soon. The movie, starring Gregory Peck (what perfect casting !), Mary Badham and Philip Alford, was critically acclaimed and a box-office success. I was surprised to know that it also marked the debut of Robert Duvall (think Tom Hagen from The Godfather).
If you are someone who hasn’t read the book, open a new tab right now and order it ! 🙂