I finished To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee more than a week ago, and I’ve yet to review it. I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s so hard to review such a well-known novel, and I came up with three reasons:
- Everybody’s read it, so they can judge my review as unworthy
- Reviewing this book is like reviewing Pride and Prejudice or A Tale of Two Cities. What more can you say then, “It’s really good. Read it”?
- The major theme is racism, and who wants to talk about that with everything in the media?
So I’ve made a few decisions; I won’t talk politics or specifics. Instead, I’ll discuss the basic lessons that a person can learn from it.
This book takes place in the 1930 during the Great Depression and is narrated by Scout, a girl between the ages of 6 and 9. Scout’s father, Atticus, is a lawyer and takes a case defending an African American man accused of raping a white girl. The father of the girl is a bit…well, evil, really…and—through some twist and turns—is the vehicle through whom Scout and her brother, Jem, finally meet their mysterious next door neighbor.
Super vague overview, am I right? I’ll add that during the trial, Atticus’ honesty peeves off the girl’s father and he vows revenge (which is how Scout and Jem are placed in the path of danger and Boo—the neightbor—gets involved).
I can say a lot, like how this is a harrowing look at the relationships between Black and White Americans during the early 1900s or how unequal the rights were. But I won’t. Instead, I want to focus more broadly on what I learned, because the lessons taught in this book are timeless.
- Integrity – Integrity seems lost in modernity when morality has turned into an opinion, a truth that alters for every person. But Atticus has integrity and does the right thing despite all those arrayed against him.
- Charity – “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you can climb into his skin and walk around in it.” It’s never a good idea to judge people because you just don’t know.
There are undoubtedly many more lessons worth learning in this book, but these two are the ones that hit me over the head as I read.
As far Harper Lee’s prose and writing…it’s beautiful and touching and real.
This book touched me on a number of levels, but mostly it taught me to have faith in humanity, to have faith in the good in people. This alone makes the book worth reading.