Apr 11

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee | Reviewing Classic Literature

To-Kill-A-Mockingbird-by-Harper-LeeThis review took a long time coming, mostly because I was having a hard time figuring out a concise way of fully expressing the intricacies weaved through the layers that are showcased in this story. And honestly, I still have no idea how I (or anyone for that matter) can do justice to reviewing this book without writing a complete thesis on it.

But don’t worry, no thesis.  I will restrain myself, and only give a short summary, and highlight the areas that really spoke to me. I am also going to include the one thing that irked me a little (it is relatively insignificant, considering the many wonderful things this book stands for), but I still want to mention it, because I don’t want you to read the book with the same bias/preconceived notion that I had, which might negatively affect your reading experience (like it affected mine).

The Plot:

The book follows three years in the life of Scout Finch (narrator), her brother Jem, their father Atticus, in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression.

I would say this novel can be viewed as two distinct parts, which are seamlessly woven together. The first half of the novel focuses mainly on Scout and Jem’s childhood, their friend Dill, their fixation on their neighbor “Boo” Radley, and their experiences at school. The second part of the book is marked both by the ongoing trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman, whom Atticus has been called to defend, and the repercussions this trial has on the children’s eventual coming of age.

SO much to love!

As many would agree, there is a lot to love – the characters, the evocative writing, and the childlike innocence spun through a novel of such weight and seriousness due to Lee’s choice of Scout as a narrator. But since I promised not to write a thesis, I will only highlight a few things –

1. Discussion of Race Perceptions/Social Justice

Despite the smooth and easily flowing narrative, this book is extremely powerful in its discussion of race, tolerance and human decency. This book shows us by example, what it means to have the courage to stand up in the face of injustice and say – “Nope. Not today. Certainly not on my watch.”

That is a lesson that I think we can never be reminded of too often. When bad people do bad things to good people, the rest of us good people, need to stand up and be counted, regardless of how scary it might seem (be). And I know that this is easier said, than done, but at least that should be the standard towards which we strive. To me, Atticus Finch represents the epitome of that standard. And for that alone (but there is more), he has made it into the list of my favorite literary characters of all time.

2. Drawing parallels between the treatment of Blacks in America and Hitler’s treatment of Jews

I really liked how Lee brought up Hitler’s actions against the Jews, and compared it to the treatment of Black people in America. Of course in America the discrimination was relatively subtle, but the essence was the same. I found it to be a very thought provoking analogy.

3. Parenting

I’m not sure how I feel about Atticus allowing his kids to call him by his first name, instead of Dad, but aside from that, he is the perfect role model as a parent (I told you there was more).

He talked to them, not at them, and he always listened (like really listened). He firmly believed that his actions spoke louder than his words. Most people go by ‘Do as I say, not as I do’, but not Atticus. He lived the life he wanted his children to emulate. I am a parent, so I know first hand, that this is not easy to do. Respect.

The one thing that irked me

The Blurb (of my copy) – It strongly suggests that the book is about the trial of a black man who had been wrongly accused, and a white man’s defense of him. So as I was reading it, I felt that the book took too long to come to the point (which I assumed was the trial) and even then the trial was not a significant part of the whole book (10-15% maybe).

And it is not just the blurb – whenever this book is discussed, that trial is the thing that gets the most attention. But the thing is – this book is not about the trial. The trial is just one of the many layers that this book has. So I would urge you to view it as a snippet of American life in 1930s; a time capsule, if you will – because that it accomplishes beautifully.


To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel surely deserving of its classic status. Though it is not without its flaws, there is a timeless message of love that permeates through the novel, and also the questions and the dilemmas raised by the book remain as relevant today; they provide much needed food for thought.

Buying Links:

To Kill a Mockingbird (Amazon)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Flipkart)

Have you guys read this book? I am sure most of you must have read it. In which case, did you find the blurb/discussion surrounding the book a little misleading too? Or was it just me? :-/ Do share.

– Shantala

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  1. I agree with the point that irked you… It was too slow to get to the trial. But that is probably what made the story more interesting as it progressed.

    Loved the detached way in which Atticus explained to his children at the end of the trial, and how he kindly instructed them to respect ‘Boo’.

    Beautifully penned (or typed) review 🙂

  2. Lata Sunil says:

    I have not yet read this book.. surely on my TBR for a long time. Its a good review and I like that you highlighted the negative. I would have done the same waiting for a trial to happen at anytime.

  3. I recently read the boom a d I could not agree more about everything you have said. I did not read the blurb, I did not have such expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and growing with Scout.

    My favorite character was Atticus as a father, so much to learn from him.

    Nice review 🙂
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  4. This is one of my favourite books, Shantala. In fact, this might just be my favourite book and Atticus my favourite in it..There’s so much in this book that you are right it might not be possible to cover everything that is wonderful about it..You put so much heart in your reviews that they actually are about the book …keep at it 🙂

  5. Shantala this review took me back in time! I read this book ages ago and remember it being a bit of a bouncer as I read it as a part of a vacation reading competition! Still Atticus is one character I distinctly remember. Your review does ample justice in being unbiased yet insightful. I definitely need to revisit this classic. Cheers dear!

  6. I have not read the book but the plot sounds amazing. I am not sure either if it is OK to call a father by their first name, it is more of a recognition of the position of the parent and the following respect. Thank you for the review!

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  7. This is one book that I did not like at all 🙁 🙁 I found Scout very irritating.
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  8. That’s a nice review, Shantala. Thank you. 🙂 ‘Parenting’ is what appealed the most to me. I loved Atticus too, and his ability to listen without forming judgements.
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  9. I’ve read this novel. I can say with certainty that I have. But the sad thing is, I have only snatches of it in my memory – a bit from here and there (and yes, what stands out the most is the dad allowing his kids to call him by his first name). The problem was (I had mentioned this in an earlier blog post) that I read it soon after Deathly Hallows and I guess I was still hungover and wasn’t willing to return to the muggle world so soon. I know this book is a classic, and I didn’t give it the attention it deserved. Maybe I’ll read it again. It’s been almost a decade since I first read it.
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  10. I read it a few years back. Bu then, I don’t remember the book influencing me much. Perhaps, it is because I read it for the sake of reading a classic such as this. If I read it a second time, keeping in mind your points, I might like it more. Brilliant dissection.
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  11. Agree absolutely with your review. That blurb bugged me too. Before I got enfolded in the story I kept wondering when the trail was going to happen.
    I did wonder why a small child was allowed to attend the trail. And at times, to me Atticus seemed to be going too far to establish a point. However, there’s no doubt that it’s a book that leaves a deep impression. A must read.

  12. Glad you enjoyed the book I read this one when I was a child and loved it then. That was many years ago. I do not remember much of the book now.
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  13. It’s been a LONG time since I read this book and I don’t remember much about it either. I sure need to reread it. I think the last time I read it, I was still in school. The book didn’t speak to me much then though I enjoyed it so I am curious to know what I would think about it now.
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  14. Read it when I was younger and again as an adult and loved it both times. Great book on race, justice and more importantly, acceptance. Quite sad too.
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  15. I read this many years ago and then again when my son had to read it in school. Good review – just one point of dissension the americans were just as brutal – no subtlety there at all.
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  16. Lovely book, one of my all-time favourites! Loved the character of Atticus. The book and the film have both lived on in my memory. Your post brought back those days of the past once again.

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