To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Book review

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a story of two siblings, Scout and Jem, who grow up in the Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, and are forced to face the harsh realities of society. Their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, is appointed to defend a 1

Negro man, Tom Robinson, convicted of raping a white woman, and this causes immense controversy and outrage within the Southern, predominantly white town. Not only do young Scout and Jem witness prejudice and racism at its core, they deal with issues such as the search for justice and courage amongst their backward, disillusioned townsfolk. Although in theory, the law since the end of the Civil War states that all AfricanAmericans are to be given equal rights as the Whites, this has not been observed much in the South. The defeated Southerners suffered a major blow at the end of the war, for their pride was tarnished when the law was instated and this meant that their anti-Black war campaign was of no avail. The mixture of utter resentment and shame after war only fuelled more and more prejudice towards the Blacks, and the verdict at the end of the book proves this very point, for Tom Robinson does not receive justice and is jailed for a crime he did not commit. However, the trial itself remains a great accomplishment for Atticus and the Black community, for in front of the masses, he questions many aspects of the case, in Judge Taylor’s presence, proving that Tom is inevitably innocent even if in the end he does not receive his deserved justice. Inwardly, the people of Maycomb know that Tom is innocent, yet only a few goodhearted citizens actually outwardly acknowledge this, whilst the others continue to practice bigotry. In such a narrow-minded and intolerant community such as that of Maycomb’s there really is not much one can do to change the indented traditions they have been practiced, including the anti-Black sentiments. Therefore, the mere thought of someone White in the town, such as Atticus, defending a Negro man is preposterous to the people and so that is why people such as Bob Ewell, the father of the supposed rape victim, are enraged. They are angered at Atticus’ choice to be straitlaced and distinct to the Southern

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values that they all share. Conformation to them is a key to living a fulfilling and purposeful life and so anyone who does not agree to embrace this ends up being ostracized, jeered at or avoided altogether. This is proven in the cases of Boo Radley, a misunderstood and isolated figure, Dolphus Raymond, an acting drunkard who is scorned for having a Negro mistress, and Maudie Atkinson, a wonderful, non-prejudiced friend of Scout and Jem’s and who openly defies the norms. Similarly, Tom Robinson is found guilty after he explains that it was only his goodwill and the pity he had for Mayella Ewell that led him to enter her house and help her out. This type of behavior is considered absurd, for the White community cannot digest the fact that a Negro man could ever dare to feel sympathy for a White person. Because Tom strayed from the conformed path that Blacks are expected to follow in the town of Maycomb, he is attacked and therefore eventually shot and killed by the end of the book. Atticus Finch represents the courage and the search for justice that so many Blacks long for in the town. He is a level-headed, respectful and much admired man, who upholds belief in the law yet feels that minor improvements need to be implemented, including justice for all races, regardless of skin color. When Atticus agrees to take Tom’s case, he takes a huge risk and puts him and his children’s lives and reputations on the line, yet this does not faze him, for he believes that certainly there will be some sort of fairness which will be attained. Atticus is an extremely focused character and he makes it his personal duty to raise his children, Jem and Scout, in a different means to the orthodox and conventional upbringings of their fellow neighbors. He puts great faith in education and wants his children to read and explore various things; to have personal adventures and grow up to be good, honest, unique and non-prejudiced human beings.

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Atticus represents the minority of actual, educated and moral citizens who put faith in the right things and not in the standard teachings of most Southern culture. Therefore, Atticus Finch may have failed in winning Tom’s case in the short run, yet, as Miss Maudie puts it, “it’s just a baby-step, but it’s a step” towards the right direction and it gives hope that in the long run, Blacks will get the justice they truly deserve when on trial. To Kill a Mockingbird is an inspirational book, which represents both a story of two siblings, and a struggle of a small town to put aside its pride to give impartiality to a colored person in that time and era.

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