To Kill a Mockingbird is a very popular modern classic by the American author Harper Lee, that narrates a coming-of-age story with a theme of social equality and prejudice. It was published in 1960 and was instantly successful. The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. In the United States, it is widely read in high schools and middle schools. To Kill A Mockingbird has become a classic of modern American Literature, winning the Pulitzer Prize in1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
About The Author
Nelle Harper Lee (April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016) was an American novelist best known for her 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee has received numerous accolades and honorary degrees, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 which was awarded for her contribution to literature. She assisted her close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). Capote was the basis for the character Dill Harris in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Storyline of The Novel
The novel follows the story of a black man in the 1930s, convicted for the rape of a white girl. It is written from the perspective of two young children and their confusion at topics like race and the discriminatory ways of adults around them. Despite been written in a child’s perspective, the story does not diminish the meaningful themes of the novel in any way. Even after 80 years of its publication, the book is still popular and highly relates to our society.
The story evolves around six-year-old Scout Finch is living in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. Raised by Atticus Finch, Scout and her brother, Jem, are very comfortable with Maycomb and understand the well being of their neighbours, except the house of the mysterious Arthur Radley, whom they obsess over. Half the book is basically about Scout, Jem, and Dill (their new friend) trying to lure Arthur Radley out of his house. However, when Atticus, a lawyer, decides to take the case of a black man named Tom Robinson, tensions become high and the trial to see whether Tom Robinson is guilty or innocent based on his crime and, especially, his skin colour is at stake.
Analysis of The Storyline
To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on that gut instinct of right and wrong, and distinguishes it from just following the law. Even the titular quote: “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” is in itself an allegory for this message. Being in itself a generic message, the idea of ‘doing what’s right’ obviously has a different meaning depending on when and where you’re reading the book. If you take 1960, when the book was written, America was in a state of ethical development as social inequality was – very – gradually being overcome. Women’s rights and black rights movements were beginning to emerge and some campaigned through violence. Would Atticus Finch condone this?
In the 1930s, when the book was set, America was in the midst of the Great Depression. This was a time when economic difficulties meant that the American Dream was receding further and further away. We could consider that Atticus Finch felt that his own dream of an equal, morally decent society was also heading in the wrong direction.
Criticism and Relevance of The Storyline
This 1960 novel is ahead of its time; carrying a message that is still needed by today’s world, Harper Lee’s debut novel is regarded as one of the best contemporary classics. Prejudice against the black community is the main theme of this novel. The lives of the main character revolve around this. Standing up for what’s right, defending the weak, swimming against the current; all these righteous acts comes at a huge price, sometimes even risking the lives and dignity of our loved ones. The novel gives us a strong message to the readers. It so skilfully presents the vulnerability of a minority community and how they fall prey to prejudice. The author very skilfully brings forth the sub of racism, that too very tenderly through characters who peacefully struggle against this evil. Harper Lee shows us that in every society, there are some people who would stay firmly at the side of justice, though they may face severe consequences.
Without denying the constancy of the moral message, and the pure ingenuity of the book, it’s still open to debate whether, as with all classics, schoolchildren should be forced to read the novel and go over it page-by-page. Therefore everyone who reads it can take something out of it which no one has before. Let it not be forgotten that a true piece of literature, like To Kill a Mockingbird, is meaningful in every period and that today, Atticus Finch’s message should be heard in the midst of all the global conflicts that we hear of on the news every day and night.