'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.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.
Why was it banned?
Racial content, profanity (“damn” and “nigger” are often used), and references to rape.
Why did you choose it?
Atticus Finch, while he’s not the main protagonist or the narrator of the story, is one of the best fictional characters I have ever met. He is one of the loveliest people I have ever met or read about, and his entire manner and mindset was both admirable and encouraging. Atticus cared for everybody in town, and he tried to pass those traits onto his two children. He told them to treat everybody fairly, and to always take other people’s views into account
Considering the time period in which To Kill a Mockingbird is set, I wasn’t expecting a character like Atticus to show up. If I ever have children, I would want them to say that they want to be like Atticus when they grow up. I know that I want to be just like him.
Atticus has shot to the top of my favourite literary characters list. I know that I often love the villainous characters, the crazies and the murderers, but I have fallen head over heels for this man.
I adored the setting as well. To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930’s in Alabama. All the southern traditions that I have heard so much about rang true in this novel, and I felt like I was a part of the community in this small town. I got to know several of the characters outside of Scout’s family really well, and I can’t remember having experienced that in any other book that I have read recently. Usually you’re introduced to a handful of secondary characters, but Harper Lee introduces us to what feels like the entire town. You learn various backstories and histories through Scout, as well as through other characters’ conversations.
It was a great experience reading this novel from a child’s eyes. Scout grew up over the course of the novel., and it was a pleasure being on the journey with her as she discovered new things and had her eyes opened to the vast world around her. Jem, Scout’s older brother, also went through a lot, and we got a small taste of how the events of the novel impacted someone a tad older than Scout.
I could go into various other points that I have listed, such as the court trial, Boo Radley, mockingbirds and why it’s a sin to shoot them, hypocrisy in the 30’s when it came down to race, and so on, but I really do think that you should be able to discover such things for yourselves. Like I said at the beginning, I prefer discovering things on my own, so I want you guys – those of you who haven’t read the book – to have the same experience. If you’re anything like me then you will cry most of the way through the book.
I was a little worried that To Kill a Mockingbird would be hard to get into, which is often the case with me and classics. I needn’t have worried, though, because I was sucked in from the very first page. The prose is absolutely beautiful, and you can tell that Harper Lee put everything she had into this novel, which is possibly why she never published another one. I think most established readers would find this to be an easy read, at least when it comes to the writing style. Some of the plot points are quite dark, though the overall message of the novel is a positive one.
I don’t usually share quotes, because so few actually touch my dark, dark soul, and the ones that do have an impact would make me sound insane to all those who read my reviews. But To Kill a Mockingbird is chock-a-block with fantastic quotes, from inspiring to heart breaking. Here are a few of my favourites:
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
To Kill a Mockingbird is an absolute masterpiece, and I will treasure this story and its characters forever. I’ve been recommending it left, right, and centre, and I’ve pretty much convinced one of my brothers, who usually only reads for school, to give this a go. To say I’m proud of myself would be an understatement.