“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” This is the advice Atticus Finch gives his children, Scout and Jem when he gives them Air rifles because “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” An advice he follows to the hilt when he defends a young black man charged with attempted rape of a white girl.
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those rare books that never ceases to fascinate me. With every subsequent read it keeps throwing new insights at me and reading about Scout Finch’s world is always a sheer delight.
It is difficult to summarize the book as no amount of description can bring out the subtle acumen and rich humour with which Harper Lee captures the world through the eyes of 7 year old tomboyish Scout Finch. Set in Maycomb, Alabama, during the great depression and on the cusp of Second World War when Nazis were persecuting Jews, To Kill A Mockingbird tells the story of racial discrimination, hypocrisy and a single man’s battle for justice in a losing cause.
Harper Lee has seamlessly interwoven two tracks in her narration. The story starts innocently with the exploits of young Scout, her older brother Jem, and their friend Dill during summer holidays when they try to entice their reclusive neighbour, Arthur “Boo” Radley out of his home. Through small incidents we meet various characters in the sleepy town of Maycomb until one day things take a serious turn.
What makes this book so special? Is it the characters? For every one of them is memorable. Once you have met Atticus, Scout, Jem, Calpurnia, Boo Radley, Miss Maudie or Mrs. Dubose, it is simply impossible to forget them. Or is it the message that the book gives? Without trying to preach us, Harper Lee strongly underlines the principles of justice and equality. Coming through the eyes of a young, impressionable girl, Lee describes the irrational behaviour of adults towards race and colour that leads to conviction of Tom Robinson, a black man charged with rape of a white girl even after his gallant defence by Atticus who successfully proves that Tom was incapable of overpowering the girl due to his physical disability.
I simply love Atticus and Scout. Atticus is the epitome of integrity and righteousness, a reclusive man and an ideal father a girl may ask for. He is not afraid of waging a lonely battle, following his conscience as he tells Scout “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Scout is mischievous, naughty and tells us her story with all the innocence that a 7 year has and yet with a certain maturity and understanding that only children possess, devoid of any inhibitions and discriminations; a character that we adults mostly fail to understand about our kids.
It’s a timeless classic and I have read it at different times with ever increasing appeal and will read it someday along with my daughter. Don’t forget to watch the movie as well. Released in 1962, it’s a fitting tribute to the novel and remarkable for Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a role for which he won Academy Award.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
The book is available cheapest in India at –