Having missed many of the classics in junior high for books I can’t even recall the titles of, I’ve endeavored lately to make up for past mistakes. Lots of these novels were disparaged among my friends growing up, but I think they deserve a fair chance. I might be a little late on this bandwagon, but is it too late to hop on and love this book?
Not sure what to expect, and with great trepidation I opened Mockingbird, entered the world of Scout Finch, and left at about five in the morning. The six-year-old reminded me of my tomboy youth, and I enjoyed this southern twang version greatly. Though not autobiographical, the story shows many similarities to author Harper Lee’s early life and of those around her, including Truman Capote characterized as Dill. With older brother Jem and summertime pal, Dill, Scout tramps over the neighborhood introducing us to curious characters and a vivid southern life. Reigned in by a kind father, lawyer Atticus Finch, and housekeeper Calpurnia, we watch them grow up in two interesting years for Maycomb, the town which becomes the centre of the trial for Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. As Robinson is being defended by Atticus, Scout and Jem have a tough time being surrounded by the animosity held towards Robinson and their father, and we watch them slowly gain awareness of the adult issues which surround them.
The story, themes and writing style are all wonderful, but I think my favorite part is Lee’s narration. The way she tells the story is mesmerizing, making the subtlest things jump off the page for me. Not having grown up in the southern states, it was interesting to have a glimpse into that culture, not to mention its’ 1930’s time period. The themes touched on by Lee vary from (but are not limited to) racial injustice, growing up, respect, gender roles, and courage, all giving the reader pause for reflection and consideration. I laughed at the kids’ attempts to glimpse the elusive Boo Radley, cried at their growing pains, and learned what it is to kill a mockingbird.
Though this book became an immediate hit when it was published in 1960, there are those who find criticism with it. The black characters are underdeveloped, and some find fault with Scout’s seemingly above-average intelligence. A common book read in school, many take issue with the fact that teenagers are reading a book with racial slurs and a description of rape.
I know that the majority of readers have already polished this story off, making this book report more of a personal indulgence, but this story has really stuck with me and I feel it deserves this little tribute. To those like me who had missed this one, I highly recommend you pick it up and become introduced to Scout Finch – a little girl with a big story.