Book review, Books

To Kill a Mockingbird

It’s one of the most famous novels in American literature, it has a movie adaptation ad it’s still discussed in a lot of classrooms today. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee certainly has left it’s mark.

The book was written by Harper Lee in the 1950s, looking back on the 1930s. Jean Louise “Scout” Finch tells the story of her childhood when her father Atticus has to defend a black man accused of rape. Scout tells how she and her brother Jem get along, how a friend they call Dill comes to visit over the holidays and the way she’s being treated.

To my surprise, I really liked this book. I have never tried American literature before, but I wasn’t disappointed. While doing some research on this book and its themes, I came across a lot of different views upon the book. Some contained criticism that I think is worth mentioning later.
I want to discuss different aspects of the book like the themes, the style of writing and the characters, in combination with ways to look at them.

Themes

An important theme in American literature is racism. This also plays a big role, if not the biggest, in To Kill a Mockingbird. It occurs throughout the book. White people live apart from the coloured people. The village inhabitants call coloured people names and they call Atticus a ‘nigger-lover’ because he defends a coloured man. Even though the message of the book is comforting, the book and its characters like Atticus are not all as good as they seem. For example, the book focuses only on white characters. While this is plausible, it makes me doubt the fairness of the book and the way we read it nowadays.

“To Kill a Mockingbird gives an insight into the subject, but the way in which it is still read demonstrates that we have a very long way to go before we can declare ourselves to be truly “colour blind”.

The Guardian

The sequel Go Set a Watchman sheds another light on this subject. As I really thought To Kill a Mockingbird was a great book, I really want to see what that book has to tell.

Another important theme is the upbringing of Scout and her brother Jem. The book describes their attitudes towards each other and the lessons they, mainly Scout, learn from their father Atticus. Scout learns 4 lessons throughout the book:

  • Put yourself in other people’s shoes and walk around in them.
  • Don’t kill mockingbirds.
  • Keep fighting even though you know you’ll lose.
  • The world is very unfair.Literature class John Green

While reading the book you see Scout going through these lessons. Some lessons she learns quickly, but for others she needs some time. I thought it was really nice to see her and Jem going through this, the process of understanding what Atticus teaches them. I, personally, thought the moment where Scout finally understands the first lesson was very nice. The lessons she learns complete the book in my opinion.

Characters and symbols

The symbolism of the characters is an important aspect of this book. Some characters represent something. With these representations, different perspectives become clear. Arthur “Boo” Radley, a man who never goes outside and is fascinating to Jem, Scout and Dill, is a symbol of goodness. He is also one of the “mockingbirds” in the novel, someone with a good heart ill-treated by people.

Indeed, mockingbirds represent something. They’re in the title and in one lesson Scout has learned throughout the book. A mockingbird represents the innocence of a child. There are several mockingbirds in the novel. One, who I have already discussed, Is Arthur “Boo” Radley. Other characters that are mockingbirds are Jem, Tom Robinson, Dill and Mr. RaymondSparknotes.

I really liked this book and I really want to read the sequel Go set a Watchman. The book talks about important themes in life, such as education and moral lessons, but also about racism. While you can doubt if the book is, plainly said, racist or not, there is no doubt about it being a brilliant book. While looking through the eyes of a child, you see the wrong that is done in this world.

Sources

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