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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee propels the virtues of justice. The author, however, has a preference for moral justice rather than the canons of manmade laws. In any case, she struggles to ensure the right is fairly separated from wrong in all instances, so as not to hurt any.
The book recounts Scout Finch’s simple life of the 1930s in a small town in the South of America. She is quite excited about schooling and also looks forward to playing the summer games with her older brother Jem Finch and their neighbor Dill. Jem and Scout have a lawyer father, Atticus Finch, who is eager to pump as much knowledge in his daughter as he can. It is an impressive daughter-father relationship, except that the things he teaches her are far beyond Scout’s age. When Atticus begins defending Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, his children’s lives do not remain the same. The encounter presents them with an opportunity to learn valuable lessons about decency, tolerance, and goodness.
To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on Atticus Finch, who gains the role model and hero status not because of his physical aptitudes but the insistence on high morality. The theme of morality runs through the entire novel. The author juxtaposes sin and religion, revealing how they are intertwined.
The book is all about differentiating right from wrong. This kind of distinction is not based on the confines of the law, but from the broader perspective of morality. What the law considers to be right might be wrong when viewed from the moral lens. For instance, the law might permit the killing of individuals sentenced to death, but the book entirely considers any form of killing to be a sin. This is well demonstrated when the titular argues that you can shoot as many blue jays as you want, but you ought not to forget that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. The author thus takes a broad perspective of right and wrong.
Written in the 1960s, set in the 1930s
Even though the book’s coverage of morality is deep; the actual meaning of what is right and wrong depends on the when and where you are reading the book from. The book was written in the 1960s, at a time when America was experiencing significant social readjustment. During this period, America was faced with questions of inequality, from women attempting to get more say in the country’s affairs to the African American community agitating for more rights. Black rights and women’s rights movements were the order of the day. It was a period of general renaissance. For one who stood for justice and a lawyer at that, Atticus Finch would not have had a difficult choice supporting the minorities as they all wanted an equal society.
The book’s setting is in the 1930s. This was when America was undergoing the Great Depression. Unemployment was at its highest, and people could not afford to put on the table their daily meal. A panicky government was in a hurry to pass laws that would protect domestic industries, but this just made things worse. The American Dream was definitely off track. Reading the book brings out the impression that Atticus’ dream of an equal and morally upright society was dwindling.
The fact that the writer maintains a constant message of morality throughout the book explains why school children are required to read the book at one time in their education system. They are the foundation of every society, and this would be a sure groundwork for a just society in the future.
It would be interesting to imagine how Atticus would react to some issues being faced in modern society. Throughout his writing, Harper Lee conveniently did not tackle issues faced by gays and lesbians. Perhaps that’s because, at the time of writing, the society talked less about these issues. Certainly, Atticus Finch would be less impressed by modern time inequality. He does not tolerate homophobic or xenophobic attacks; neither does he take lightly sexism or racism, sensitive issues of the world today. He might as well stand up for animal rights, who knows?
Reviewing the educational system
Classics of modern American literature are coined so that it becomes the mirror of society. Therefore, it would have been pretty disappointing if Harper Lee failed to reflect the education system in her work. At the start of the book, we meet Scout Finch, who at that time is about six or seven. Two years later, she is nine years old and a smart first grader. But her teacher tells her that she has to stop reading because her father had been teaching her wrong material. Everything she had been taught was not meant for first graders. As funny as that may look, it is a gibe of the education system. Still, that did not kill Scout’s enthusiasm to learn. She even jokes with her brother Jem Finch that she was born reading and can barely recall the time when she wasn’t reading!
Even though To Kill a Mockingbird portrays several elements of the school system, one major controversy that has always surrounded it is whether or not it should be taught and analyzed in schools. But that was not the same with Mockingbird. The book has so many coatings, and so a lot can be learned from it. Readers around the world ought to give it a try as it can give them something new that can be assimilated into their code of ethics.
Understanding these kinds of writings is not always a straightforward matter. Having heard so much about To Kill a Mockingbird, I just had to give it a try. To my surprise, Harper Lee’s book was quite an easy read even as it conveyed a powerful and deep message that might stay with me for a better part of my life.
To Kill a Mockingbird is the only novel she ever wrote! Maybe she might have decided to take a break, having won the Pulitzer Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the world of writing.
The book maintains so much relevance that the original publication was adapted into a film. Jeff Daniels’s depiction of Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Lee’s novel is worth your watch. Writer Aaron Sorkin successfully does justice to the stage-worthy novel, placing the ever-likable Daniels at the center of attention as Atticus Finch, a small-town lawyer who represents the essence of decency, tolerance, and goodness.
The society is built to desire heroes and Aaron Sorkin manages to get one. When Bob Ewell, the father to Mayella Ewell, goes to the Finches’ porch and begins hauling insults at them, Atticus performs some kind of flip-and-fold tricks on him. This leaves the guy in pain. Viewers accept this act because Ewell represents all the negativity the society wants to eradicate – a violent drunk and racist in addition to being anti-Semite.
To Kill a Mockingbird has always been a bit of a hard-nut-to-crack. The author’s style seems too difficult for the understanding of children. This explains why the book continues to face criticisms from civic authorities, parents, and religious groups calling for its removal from school curriculum and libraries. Some argue that it surpasses children’s comprehension ability, while others feel the book exposes them to awkward situations, for instance, the Arthur “Boo” Radley encounter. But its success cannot be disputed, from selling a million copies in print to inspiring Academy Award-winning film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in the 1962 drama film. Countless county schools still have it on their book list after all.