This book is the 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel and has had a lot of hype around it in the last couple of years because of the release of Go Set A Watchman.
To Kill A Mockingbird deals with the irrationality of adults attitudes towards race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s as seen through the eyes of two children, Scout and Jem.
The novel was inspired by the racist attitudes that Harper Lee observed as a child growing up in Alabama. The themes of the novel are about morals and the instinct of what’s right and what’s wrong.
The story is about Scout’s lawyer father, Atticus, defends a black man, Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a white girl, Myella Ewell, in small town Alabama in the 1930s. Tom is innocent, is was in fact Myella who came on to Tom who refused her on the grounds that he is married. But a jury of twelve men refuse to see past the colour of Tom’s skin even though it is obvious the Ewell’s are lying through their teeth and covering up the fact that Bob Ewell has beat his daughter, Myella, for making sexual advances towards Tom. Bob Ewell is scum, the very bottom rung of society.
The attitude of the “white trash” characters in the novel is that it doesn’t matter what they do, even if they’re scum of the earth, they still believe they are better than black people purely because their skin is white.
Lee drew from a number of cases that had occurred during her childhood in Alabama and To Kill A Mockingbird is an insight into troubling times told through the eyes of a child. It’s simplicity is its genius. It gives a message of hope and tolerance through the next generation. It was an opportunity for the American people to take a long hard look at themselves and their society and their relationship to the issue of race. The book and it’s impact have been compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin published 100 years before.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the release of Go Set A Watchman, a book that Lee did not want released as it was considered a first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. There has been another announcement that the mass-market edition of To Kill A Mockingbird is to be taken out of print. Is this the greed of Lee’s estate rearing its head once again?
I really love this book. It makes you feel so angry that things like this can happen. The injustice of it all takes its toll on the reader. But there is hope that the younger generation will be different. Everyone should read this novel.