Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, is a well written book published in the 1960s.  The front cover is black except for the writing and a small little bird standing alone.  It looks like it represents Tom Robinson, the main coloured man in the story.  He is truly alone in his struggle for justice except for Atticus Finch who fights to help him.  On the back of the book it tells us about Atticus teaching his two kids, Jem and Scout, about injustice and unfairness to different races while he fights Tom’s case. 
The book tells the story through the eyes of a young child, Scout Finch.  She witnesses this injustice going on around her and sees Tom Robinson’s trial.  The family must suffer the names they’re being called.  The local people don’t approve of Atticus defending a black man who has been charged with the rape of a white girl.   The court case is the central part of the novel but a lot of the book is dedicated to before the case and the racist opinions of neighbours in the ‘sleepy’ town of Maycomb. 

The main themes of the book are racism, prejudice, injustice, friendship and hypercriticism.  We see the friendship between Scout, Jem and Boo Radley during the book from the gifts in the knothole of the tree to eventually saving their lives.  When Scout walks him back to his house she stops living in a fantasy world with regard to Boo and she really befriends him.   We also see hyprocriticism in this story.  The people of Maycomb think badly of racism going on outside of Maycomb yet they continue to be racist themselves.  I think they don’t really understand to the full extent what they are doing to coloured people.  Both these themes relate to the main message of the book which concerns  Atticus always giving  advice on how to treat other people.
The title of this book is very important because Tom Robinson is a Mockingbird in Maycomb.  Atticus says it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.  He is referring to Tom and how he shouldn’t be harmed.  A mockingbird is a songbird, which mimics the songs of other birds.  The bird is a symbol of Tom Robinson who has to try and prove his innocence over the word of a white man with Atticus as the only person there for him as a guide.

One of my favourite quotes from the book is from Atticus who says: ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’  This is very good advice to any person and the people of Maycomb should think about it.  It might make them think even for a second that what they’re doing is wrong.  They don’t really care about Tom Robinson’s side of the story and they don’t understand what he’s going through.  This also goes for Boo Radley, people just presume he is mad, but really nobody knows the truth because they don’t know what’s happening in the Radley house.  Another quote which I like, also spoken by Atticus, is: ‘You just hold your head high and keep those fists down.  No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat.  Try fightin’ with your head for a change.’ I like this because Atticus is telling Scout to stand up for what she believes in, but to think before she reacts, not to be rash.  It is great advice for Scout and would help her not to suffer the consequences of her actions.

I enjoyed reading the end of the novel, where Scout sees Boo for what he really is and not some fantasy murder man.  She realises he is a normal but shy man who is just content with staying inside.
My favourite character was Scout, who is an innocent child trying to make sense of the world around her.  We see her understanding and knowledge grow during the book and we listen to her thoughts about racism.  Bob Ewell is my least favourite character because he is a nasty vindictive spiteful man.  He is one of the more nasty racists who wants to share his horrible opinions with everyone.  He does eventually get his comeuppance in the end.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of action and history as it shows how coloured people really would have been treated in the 1930’s in the Southern United States.