To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill A Mocking Bird is always on those lists of ‘books you must read before you die’. These lists often make me feel guilty as I put off reading classic novels for something a little lighter. Plus, I do believe that if we all spent our lives struggling through books such as War and Peace and Middlemarch we may have improved ourselves, but not have enjoyed the process. Mocking Bird, however, is a book that will not only teach you something and develop you as a person – it is a compelling read.
The best thing about this book is the way it comfortably explores both serious and light-hearted issues of the American Deep South in the 1930s. The book deals with hard-hitting issues of race, morality and family values but does so with such tenderness, warmth and humour that you really feel at home with the characters and deeply care what happens to them.
This is because of the natural and wholesome nature of the people we meet in the book. The story is told from by 10 year old Jean-Louise (nicknamed ‘Scout’), a feisty and headstrong tomboy. Her innocent games and playtime with her older brother, Jem, soon mean you are surrounded by their little world. Their father, Atticus, is one of the most impressive role models I have come across in literature. His calm knowledge of what is right and what is wrong provides much of the appeal of the book. In fact, when reading, I did think it might be a good idea to hand this book out as a sort of manual for parents.
The story follows the children’s discovery of the Radley’s house down the road. Their curiosity gets the better of them and we follow the children on brave and suspense filled trips into the spooky house. However, their childish games are put aside as things turn darker. Something is clearly bothering their father and they hear people discussing him in the school playground. The story then becomes a young and innocent viewpoint of a serious situation that calls on our characters (and the reader) to make judgement on the adult’s world and the decisions they make. The reader is left unsure whether these ‘responsible adults’ have more of a sense of right and wrong than our young narrator, Scout.
To Kill a Mocking Bird asks serious questions of how different people in the community deal with important and difficult events that rock their lives, and call upon them to make moral decisions. This book contains a brilliant story line (complete with a fantastic ending) but also questions your own morality. It makes you feel at home within a loving family and part of a Deep South community with conflicting ideas on justice and unable to escape their past. It really is a ‘must-read’.