Tuesday, 31 January 2012

To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Lee Harper


Published in 1960, set in 1930's

The central theme is  - Prejudice - firstly race prejudice, and then class prejudice.

I've just finished reading this novel for our Book Group. As a writer, I usually look to published novels to see what made it a success. To Kill a Mocking Bird was certainly a successful book and now a modern classic.

What strikes me about it, is that the author used one character as a beacon of perfection - Atticus was the perfect father as well as the perfect lawyer, defending the underdog. As a father, he taught his children the evils of racial prejudice, and did so in a practical way, thereby forcing them to foster good attitudes to all, even those who are racist. He demonstrated to them, that people are three dimensional, and not one sided. Therefore, even if someone holds racist attitudes, they themselves should not sink to that level, but uphold their own high values.

As a professional man, a lawyer acting for a black man on a rape charge of a white girl, he did the same. Despite all the negativity and animosity he had from the townsfolk, he remained strong, professional and undeterred. The highlight being, his day in court. The children saw their father in action, defending an innocent man, who had been accused falsely, and who was a victim of racism. Difficult to prove the man's innocence, Atticus did his job well, and not only were his children proud of him, but they had a model of good to take with them through life.

In this novel, Harper Lee manages to demonstrate how racism could be dealt with from the home. How fostering good attitudes in children sows the seeds of upright, upstanding human beings for the next generations to come. She demonstrates how racial prejudice can cause twisted irrational behaviour, poor judgement, and destruction of lives, unless someone is brave enough stands up against it. Whether she needed to do with with an almost perfect hero in Atticus remains a question, but in no way detracts from the powerful message brought home in this book.


  1. I haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird since we had to do it in English at school. But you've made it sound worth a re-visit, Marilyn.

  2. It was a choice made by my book group. Glad I read it. And I suggested it to my 14 year old daughter. She read it and used it for her History project, which was to review a book which has historical interest.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is brilliant for more than just the content and context of the story, but also for the use of characters as tools to portray the writer's very important message.

    It's worth a revisit, Sally. You'll definitely get more out of it now.