To Kill A Mockingbird

Review by Lucy Ryder

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel first published in 1960, concerning the social injustice in the United States during the Great Depression and the Jim Crow Era (1933-1935). Harper Lee explores the events in the fictious town of Maycomb, Alabama through the eyes of Scout Finch, a young tomboy. Through the use of a child’s perspective, Lee allows the reader to think without the burden of maturity and experience, making for an unorthodox and life-affirming read. Together with her brother, Jem, Scout astutely points out the strange and unnecessary racial prejudice in Maycomb, unaware of the impact this has. The experiences of Scout and Jem are set against their father Atticus’ work in the trial of Tom Robinson. A black man accused of raping a white woman, Tom is demonised, despite the fact his innocence is evident from the beginning. Indeed, the themes of innocence and the loss of innocence are important ones, as the reader sees Scout gradually become aware of the social and legal injustice which exists around her. Atticus says it best:

“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ‘em all away from you. That’s never possible”.

Whilst the primary focus of the novel is racial injustice, the power of rumours and the morality of the public body are also emphasised. Lee’s exploration of these themes manifest in Boo Radley, another social outcast whose description is near-Gothic in its ambiguity. Lee teaches the reader that people are not always what they seem; a lesson which we would do well to remember, even 60 years after the novel’s publication.

Winner of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize, To Kill a Mockingbird simply must be read. It must not, however, be read lightly. The racial prejudice and injustice described in the novel were far from fiction and still remain prevalent in today’s social landscape. It will do a reader well to remember this. I recommend To Kill a Mockingbird  to you without reservation.

Here are some recommendations for those who enjoyed this book:

  • Book - Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

This is Harper Lee’s only other published novel. It follows an older Scout, yet was written before To Kill a Mockingbird. It was initially advertised as a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird but it now classed as a first draft.

  • Book - Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This is Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel. Described as ‘breath-taking’ and exhibiting ‘soaring beauty’, Homegoing is another must-read. It begins in Ghana with two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who are born in different villages and are unaware of each other’s existence. One sister is taken to the United States as a slave and the other is married to an Englishman. The novel follows their lives and the generations that follow them.