Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Series: To Kill a Mockingbird, #1
Page Count: 281
Publisher: Warner Books
Original Publication Date: 1960
Genre(s): Classics, Historical fiction
Scout and Jem Finch are the children of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in Maycomb, Alabama. They’re well-off compared to some folks in town, but Atticus doesn’t let that privilege go to his children’s heads. With his wife long dead, he teaches them right from wrong the best he can. One summer, Scout and Jem make the acquaintance of Dill, and they all become best friends. This sets off a wild chain of events, starting with Boo Radley and ending with a broken arm, and a lot of adventures in between.
By the time one is 21 years old, they have certainly read Harper Lee’s classic tale, To Kill a Mockingbird. Well, everyone except me, apparently. Most kids read it in school, typically 8th grade, but I was attending an online school (what I deemed “homeschool”) and we were not required to read it. So I missed out. But here I am, reading it of my own volition, for the first time. I do not regret this decision.
Set in 1960, the time it was written, To Kill a Mockingbird is absolutely revolutionary. Still today, it’s being questioned in schools and is, of course, a constantly challenged and banned book. I won’t talk about all that in this review (or, if I do, I’ll try to keep it brief).
The story is told in first-person from Scout’s point of view, a young girl of only six years old at the novel’s beginning. Like many novels written in the 20th century, the story is all over the place: within the 280 pages, a lot happens to Scout and her family. At first, it’s a simple story about a childish fascination with the creepy recluse next door, but the story slowly transitions into a he-said-she-said court case that carries the story into a conversation of racism, gender roles, social classes, and the human condition. It takes a little bit to get going, but it quickly gathers momentum and keeps you hooked until the last page. I wouldn’t say this is a thrilling or creepy story, but towards the end I definitely felt my heart pounding and was on the edge of my seat. Maybe it’s because it’s October and dark outside and I’m home alone, but it gets a little spooky.
I thought everything was tied up pretty nicely there at the end, so I’m surprised Lee did write a sequel. I remember when Go Set a Watchman came out — now I can finally go read it!
Our narrator, Scout, is a tomboy — she doesn’t like to wear dresses or act like a lady; she’d rather be out with her older brother, Jem, getting into schemes and adventures, running around barefoot, wearing her overalls. She reminds me of myself a little, growing up with boys and wanting to be included and constantly being told to “go away, you’re a girl.” I get it. It’s dumb. I really liked Scout and found her endearing, along with the rest of her family, honestly. She is very easily a sympathetic character, and being only six years old, she knows a lot.
Jem, Scout’s older brother, can be a jerk sometimes, but he’s a good brother. He reminds me of my own older brother a bit. I was always begging to play with my brother and his friends, always insisting on tagging along. It’s fun to watch Jem hit puberty and start acting like a know-it-all.
Atticus is easily my favorite character of the novel and will forever be the coolest dad, second only to my own dad. He is wise, a good dad, and ahead of his time. He always knows just what to say and do, and always imparts the best advice on Scout and Jem. The best parts of the book are the lessons given from Atticus to his kids. That’s what makes this book so amazing. If you think in any way this book supports racism, or anti-feministic values, or anything of the sort, you honestly have not read this book and should go back and try again. Thanks.
The writing reminded me of stories like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn — set in the south and involving lots of adventures. Harper Lee sure knows how to tell a story, though, and packed a lot of criticisms and lessons into one text. I liked this story a lot more than I ever thought I would, and am excited to read the sequel down the road. I had no major issues with this novel and will happily re-read it in the future. It also has a pretty little spot on my bookcase to remain forever!
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
“There are some kind of men who—who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one.”
“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”