Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

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It took me sometime to pick up the much touted book  “To Kill a Mocking Bird”.  It would have been a miss had I not picked it up.  Written by Harper Lee, the book turned out to be a thought provoking and a delightful read.  In an emphatic fashion the author describes a story of a lawyer, his values, his family and in the process highlights the ironies of the human race.

  1. The Story and the Scope-  Set up during the period of racism in USA, To Kill a Mocking Bird is a story of a righteous white lawyer, Atticus, who fights a case of a rape accused black. The society knows that the black is innocent but the society along with Atticus also knows that the black will be, in fact, he has to be punished in a white dominated society. The upright  Atticus thinks of the case as a lifetime opportunity for him to live his belief, and he lives it, with full weight,   knowing the fact that he and his family will be mocked by his own society for doing so.  The story is a sharp attack on the hypocrisy of human beings and on the social order which permits inequality. The story also highlights the goodness residing inside humans. In its scope, other than racism, the book beautifully captures the innocence and the curiosity of the children and their tussle to prove that they are grown up.
  2. The Flow of Plot – The story is narrated by Scout, daughter of Atticus. The first part of the book is more about Scout, her brother Jem and their childhood plays. Gradually, without making it conspicuous, the story shifts to Atticus and his case. And suddenly the gentle but gripping story turns to a page turner. Once you realize the shift, you would also realize that there are some unresolved and unconnected pieces in the plot but in the end all the pieces nicely falls in the place. Overall, the flow is superb.
  3. The Characters –  I have read the book sometime back  but I still remember the characters and their qualities, so lastingly they have been portrayed by the author. The adorable character of Atticus lives life beyond the story and the book. Brave, super courteous and upright in nature, Atticus is a paragon of human virtue.  His daughter Scout is a fierce girl who has been raised without mother and  his son Jem always itches to prove that he is grown up, a desire which is so wanted by the kids.  The childhood play of the kids revolve around Boo Radley – a neighbor who has never been seen in public- and the kids desire to meet him.
  4. The Language-  The language and the text is coherent and fluid.  Author has impactfully presented the moral conundrums of humans, the ironies of the society and the psyche of the growing children.   One phrase which stands out in my mind is Frog sticking without light,  a phrase which perhaps has come in to usage after being used by the author in the book, even if it had existed before.  The truth about the moral issues are described in plain but effective manner.

Few pearls from the book:

  •   Atticus finch on why he would fight for a black, knowing the end result: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. 
  • Describing the feelings about thing which is your second habit : “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” 
  • “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
  • “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”
  • A daughter’s pride described: “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.”
  • “Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “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.

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