Examination of Key Themes and Ideas in to Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a Mockingbird

“Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.” A very appropriate, and poignant, opening statement for one of the seminal literary works of the modern age. Everybody knows the story of the Finch family, and of the struggle against injustice that their patriarch, Atticus Finch, leads. One summer during the 1930’s, Atticus, a small-town barrister in Maycomb, Alabama, defends whom he considers a wrongly accused African American, charged with rape. As such, he incurs the wrath of a society that prides itself upon its deep-set and dearly held traditionalist values, i.e. the inferiority of particular members of the human race due to their skin colour. The story is, of course, Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Told from the point of view of Atticus’ young daughter Jean Louise Finch (better known to us as Scout), the book is an engaging and informed look at the darker, and lighter, aspects of man’s persona. Lee employs the many tricks of her trade in crafting this novel, and these tricks have come to define this work for millions. Through the characters, the setting, the titular Mockingbird, the themes and motifs, right down to how she has presented it to us, To Kill a Mockingbird registers today as an American masterpiece.

One of the more notable and acclaimed aspects of the book is the narrative style in which it is written. As events unfold, they are related to us by young Scout Finch, about seven years of age. The reader experiences the story from the perspective of an innocent, uncorrupted child. As the saying goes, ‘a child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer’. Scout asks her own questions during the novel, questions that her father Atticus struggles with. Why did they find that poor man guilty? Why do reasonable, god-faring people we see each and every day want to hurt him so badly? We were all children once; we all grew up, and learnt the harsh lessons of life, but we were once children:...
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