This 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 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.
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.
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.
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