Book of the Month: To Kill A Mockingbird

Ah! This is a classic modern American Literature, and will always be one. Grateful to my sister for gifting me with this amazing literary piece. I mean, where do I begin?

The book tells the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape, against the backdrop of a fictitious Maycomb county in 1930s Alabama. The book is written through the point of view of a six year old girl, Jean Louise [Scout] Finch, the daughter of said lawyer. Scout lives with her brother, Jem, their widowed father, Atticus, and their maid, Calpurnia. While this case is going on, we see on another end the dynamics of Scout's—an  inquisitive, brilliant, and opinionated six-year old—with  her family and the adults in Maycomb. Actual details of the case and the humiliation they had to go through because their white father defended a negro does not come till later parts of the novel. Before then however; in earlier parts of the novel, we are shown how Scout, Jem, and their best friend Dill come up with ways to lure a recluse, Arthur "Boo" Radley out of his house, where he has never stepped out of in years. The first half and second half of the novel come to an interesting conclusion/intersection/twist, when...okay, that would have been the king of all spoilers. Haha.

It's filled with a lot of depth and humor. The most prominent theme, of course, is racial inequality and injustice. Anybody can write a poignant tale of inequality, especially set in the South, and more especially, in 1930s America, but no other person could have written To Kill a Mockingbird like Lee did. The art of story telling and narration were exceptional; exquisite. The problem with a book this beautifully written is that it becomes incredibly hard to describe. I'm ashamed it took me this long to read it. But I am like that sometimes; always terribly late to the party.

The dynamic of Jem and Scout's relationship was very poignant and funny at the same time. And it was very familiar. It was very reminiscent of my relationship with my brother when we were kids. I sure was not as violent as Scout, but the dynamics of their relationship bore certain resemblance with that of my brother and me. At first, largely dependent on him for recreation, but still very independent and strong-willed. She would sometimes blame him when things went wrong, yet defend him fiercely other times, up to the point of attacking a grown man on her brother's behalf. Her curiosity and innocuous way of describing the different events in Maycomb was refreshing. I particularly loved reading the events as told by a child. Although it sometimes became hard to distinguish if I was reading the viewpoints of Scout as a child, or of  Scout (much older) infusing her now mature thoughts on incidents that occurred when she was young.

Jem's deep childlike faith in the jury was at best amusing, and at worst ignorant. But I found his compassion very endearing especially considering he was just a child. And that's another recurring theme of the book: destruction of innocence.

"You couldn't, but they could and they did. the older you grow the more of it you'll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom,  be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men everyday 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, that white man is trash."

Atticus said to Jem, in what I thought was a very accurate prognostication. It was the reality then, and is still sometimes the reality now.

Man this book was raving in social issues. It took on gender roles, economic inequality, racism, injustice, prejudices. Wasn't it so pathetic that at the time women were not allowed to sit on juries in Alabama? To think that the opinionated, strong-willed protagonist, whose voice, the story was being told could not have been able to sit on a jury, [even if she was old enough].

I suspect that a [silent] overarching theme and the one message Harper Lee wanted to leave with her readers was summarized on the last page of the book; when Atticus read a book to Scout about someone who was wrongly accused of a crime. Upon finally meeting the accused person, they (his accusers) found that not only was he innocent, he was real nice. Atticus responded, "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."

Most people are.

There's no telling you what happened or how it happened; or that Scout was this tomboy you wished was your friend in school; or the solid [albeit not very talked about love] love that bound Atticus, Jem and Scout together; or how Atticus became the most loved fictitious character and a "role model" to lawyers.

This is a book you don't read once, you read it over and over. Just because.

Now off to see the movie.



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