The Throwback Tuesday weekly post is a opportunity for me to revisit the good, cheesy, forgotten or essential parts of music, film, tv and books from my childhood, the past few years or the generations/eras/works of art that have influenced my life in some way.
Today, I thought I would look back at one of my all time favourite books, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. I first read this book about 3 or 4 years ago and I instantly fell in love with it and the hard hitting story that lies within the novel. I feel like it is one of those books that you don’t just casually read in the hope of a nice story but instead it is one you read that you pay attention to and it really does make you think. Leaving you with questions, answering some but not all, and possibly a different outlook on life or a particular situation. I know that makes it sound like such a deep book and I guess in a lot of ways it is but I think it is a story you will enjoy as well.
The book centres around Scout Finch, an inquisitive six year old who lives with her brother Jem and widowed father, Atticus, the town’s lawyer. Scout is a descendant of Simon Finch, a Methodist who flees England and settles in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama where he becomes rich and like everyone else at the time buys slaves to work his land though the whole premise goes against his religious beliefs. The book opens with Simon’s story, more than likely for some context and background, and then flits to the present day and Scout. Set during the Great Depression it’s a time where America was going through many changes as well as struggling in many states.
The story here though starts with that of the mysterious Boo Radley, a reclusive neighbour who all the adults refuse to talk about but the children – Scout, Jem and their friend Dill who only comes to Alabama to live with his Grandma for the summer – are very intrigued by. During the course of two summers and trying to entice Boo out of his house but it doesn’t really work and they never see him.
A still from the 1962 movie adaptation starring Gregory Peck, via open.edu
The story then shots off to a different plot, a court case where Atticus is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of the rape of Mayella Ewell, a white woman. A lot of the story then follows the case and the implications the case has on Atticus’ life and his children as a white man defending a black man in court is something to be looked down upon in the time this book is set. The children have been told not to attend court by Atticus but still go sitting up in the ‘coloured balcony’ to hear proceedings. Though Atticus manages to prove Tom’s guilt and that Mayella and her father are lying, the jury still finds Tom guilty sending him to prison where he is later shot for trying to escape.
The whole story really makes not only the characters question their opinions on the law and the justice system but also the reader. In this day and age it is a harrowing tale and one that I’m sure will upset many. The book ends with an attack, a murder and a mysterious rescuer. I’ll leave the story there as I don’t want to ruin it or give away the ending or any big points of the book but it is a quite a nice ending after such a emotional rollercoaster of a tale.
For me, it’s a book I’m glad I waited until I was in my late teens to read as I think it’s a little too much for people younger. I know it is occasionally studied at GCSE and A Level and though it makes a great case study, I’m not sure as a teenager studying it you would fully realise the implications and the shocking nature of the book. It is a book I would encourage everyone to read as for me it is a cornerstone of modern literature and that has been proved with the awards it has won, including the Pulitzer Prize, and the fact that over 50 years on it is still a book that shocks, incites debate and opinion and is well respected by many. What that really comes down to for me is the wonderful writing and great storytelling of Lee who manages to mix the occasional bit of humour and light-heartedness into what is essentially a book that deals with some very serious issues. If you only ever read one hard-hitting book in all your life, then definitely make it this one.
Below is the trailer from the 1962 movie adaption of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’: