Tuesday, 4 September 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Title: To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Vintage
Released: July 11th 1960
Pages: 307 (Paperback)
Buy: Amazon

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 rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice, —but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

I first told my gran that I wanted to read this a few months back, and handily her friend was clearing out some of her old novels and gave me this. Then I found out that for my next school year (which incidentally starts tomorrow) we'll be studying To Kill A Mockingbird for English Literature, so I suppose my reasons for reading this doubled. I have to say, this book has had so much hype, and in my experience - like when I read Wuthering Heights - I usually end up disappointing. But not for this. The hype for this was absolutely correct. If you're looking for a classic novel to read, go straight ahead and buy this. You won't regret it.

From what I'd heard previously, To Kill A Mockingbird followed the events of a court case where a black man is accused of sexually assaulting a white girl. This book is set in 1930's America - Alabama, specifically - and although black slavery was abolished, equality still hadn't settled in, and there was still that racial line drawn. However, for me I found that this novel isn't just about the court case - it is about a certain coming of age, and learning to see past people's appearances and see them for who they really are, prejudice aside. I found it to be really eye-opening, even now when situations like this are mostly deceased worldwide.

Firstly, I loved the main characters of Scout, Jem and Atticus. Although they're a family, they each represented a completely different personality. Atticus was very straight-forward and fair, much like the ideal lawyer, whereas Jem was strong-headed and let his emotions get in the way of sense, and Scout always wanted to learn, and was very accepting of everyone, no matter who they were. Although the story was told from Scout's point of view, Lee managed to create it so that you were almost seeing it for all three perspectives, which helped the reader to get a better view of the whole situation.

Aside from those three, one characterization I really loved was that of Boo Radley. For the majority of the book, we only know him as the crazy young adult who is said to be locked up inside of his house, never seeing a patch of sunlight. I love how Lee built up the legend behind Boo, creating him into some kind of background myth, and I don't know about anyone else, but I spent a lot of the novel waiting for him to make an appearance - I just kept thinking, You can't build up that much of a character without even showing him off, can you? So (spoilers are coming up, so stop reading now if you don't want to hear anything) when we actually did meet Boo, I was relieved, as well as curious. He was nothing like this ghost that Scout had created in her mind, and realistically, he actually saved Jem. For me, this small, insignificant part at the end of the novel really managed to sum up the whole plot for me: that people can make mistakes, but that one mistake shouldn't judge the rest of their lives. This again, leads back to the overall theme of prejudice.

In all honesty, the book did take me a while to read - a good few weeks - but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think To Kill A Mockingbird is just one of those novels that you must read at least once in your lifetime. I'd like to say that as I've read it, I've definitely grown as a person in some aspects. Of course, I try my best not to be prejudiced against anyone, but even as I read it, I knew if there was a legend like Boo Radley around near me, I'd probably be a bit wary, too. It reminded me not to judge a book completely by its cover and blurb - there is always more to be discovered. Harper Lee has written an amazing book, and I honestly do not think it will be forgotten in the centuries to come.
Rating: 5/5

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