First published in 1960,’To Kill a Mockingbird’ is an anti-racist novel set in Alabama during the Great Depression. It is a story about a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. The story is narrated by Scout Finch, an eight – year old girl whose father is a lawyer and is ordered by the court to defend Harper Lee’s real mockingbird. Through the young eyes of Scout and her older brother Jem, Lee explores with humour adult attitudes to race and social class in the thirties.
What I enjoyed in this book was how Lee portrayed a single parent bringing up two children in a town full of prejudice, violence and hypocrisy. Atticus was full of compassion and he never avoided a difficult conversation with his children. He was explaining to them things as they were without worrying about what people might say. He thought them to read and to write before they set foot at school and most importantly he thought them to be open – mined and to never judge a person without considering things from their point of view.
‘what exactly is a nigger lover?‘
‘Scout, nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything – like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain – ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favouring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody’
‘You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?’
‘I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody (…) It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is’.
An opposite to Finch’s family, we have Ewell’s family where there is no opportunity for human contact and love. Bob Ewell is the father of eight children with a reputation of being a drunk and someone who beats his children. It is him who accuses Tom Robinson of raping his 19 – year – old daughter Mayella. He is using his advantage of being a white man to cover up for his wrongdoings. He knows perfectly well that it will be almost impossible for a black man to win a trial.
Scout & Jem
Finally, I liked how Lee portrayed Scout’s & Jem’s relationship as a brother and sister. They were both very protective of each other and were not afraid to stand up for themselves where almost all town was against their father defending a black man. Scout in particular was a very curious child, a little naive and idealistic but always ready to question things she has little knowledge of. The scene that stayed with me was when Scout’s teacher talks about the Holocaust.
‘That’s the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced’ (Scout’s teacher)
‘Miss Gates hates Hitler a lot…’ (Scout)
‘What’s wrong with that?’
‘She went on today about how bad it was him treating Jews like that. Jem, it’s not right to persecute anybody is it?’
‘Gracious no, Scout. What’s eatin’ you?’
‘Well, coming out of the court-house (…) I heard her say it’s time somebody taught them a lesson (…). Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad and then turn around and be ugly about folks rights at home?’
Lastly, I think that was a very special story that I would like to come back to someday. Highly recommend it!