To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Finally managed to squeeze in time to finish my book as the last month or so has been so busy, leaving me little time to read and this has got me down quite a bit! 

Anyways, I finished reading Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ just this evening and felt I had to write about it as soon as possible. I loved the way in which Lee explores the conflict within American society in the 1930’s, paying particular interest to the heavily racist opinions inflicted on those of a different racial background. He discovers popular opinions of the time through the accusations of rape thrown at Tom Robinson, a black man in mostly white society. It is argued that Tom himself is the metaphorical mockingbird, as mockingbirds represent innocence, to shoot the mockingbird would be destruction of innocence. Tom’s unfortunate end reflects on the death of innocence and truth, suggesting that the racism towards people of different backgrounds often has major consequences. The girl Tom had supposedly raped was white, with a family background in Maycombe. Atticus is aware from the start of the case that they wouldn’t win, as he acknowledges that a white persons word is worth ten times a black person’s. Throughout the novel, Harper Lee uncovers the strong divide between the black and the white, often referring to the black as ‘them’ contrasted to ‘us’ (the white people). This idea of social divide causes many issues for the characters throughout the text, suggesting Lee’s message that nothing good can come from discrimination. 

The story follows the life of a young protagonist female, Scout Finch and her perspective on the small town she grows up in, this particular choice of perspective works well in Lee’s favour as he presents adult discriminatory views as being something to laugh at, to young Scout, racism doesn’t quite make sense and so through this, Lee essentially mocks those that express racist opinions and makes us as readers question why there is any need for racism. As a young girl in the 1930’s, Scout is subject to much influence of people telling her to ‘be a lady’ and be what a woman ‘should’ be. However, whilst Scout is aware that she ‘should’ act to fit this strict stereotype, she questions why? Why should she be made to act in a grown up, ‘respectable’ manner when her brother Jem is not? Why should she wear dresses rather than comfortable trousers? Why is she subject to so much criticism yet Dill and Jem appear to be excused from this? To her, it just doesn’t seem fair. Feminist readings of this text may praise Scout for standing her ground and not allowing herself to be shaped into the ideal lady, and instead following her heart of who she should be, rather than who society wants her to be. Go Scout! 

Overall, I started off bored but as I read on, my interest grew and after really thinking about it, I quite like it. It is a thorough, realistic representation of life in 1930’s America and discusses many of the key conflicts of the time. 

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5 thoughts on “To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

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    1. Yes definitely! I feel like the child perspective really brought out the absurdity of racism, an effective move I think! I feel terrible for having been bored at the start but I think at first I struggled to understand it’s deeper meaning, definitely appreciate it now though hahah! 🙂

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  1. Considering that you already mention racial and gender divide, could you argue that Lee presents criticises the treatment of marginalised groups in genera (for example Boo Radley)? Perhaps that ultimately the vulnerable, the ones withour the voice, the vilified are the true voices of innocence and humanity?

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    1. Yes! I particularly took interest in the character of Boo Radley, of whom appears an underlying motive for the two siblings, he is thought of as a social outcast and is often spoken about by those in the neighbourhood. Could this idea of gossip link to the way in which people were (and still are) ‘gossiped’ about if they do not fit the expectations of what a respectable person should be? And through this, Lee could be criticising treatment of others within tight knit communities.

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