This quote sets the tone of the book. To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a book about prejudice and injustice and how man’s ignorance can lead to both. While the landscape has changed somewhat since the 1930’s setting of the novel, the truths it teaches have not.
The Popularity of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Civil Rights Movement
The popularity of the novel cannot be denied. The story itself is a remarkable story worth telling. But why did it strike such a chord with the American public immediately upon its release?
To Kill a Mockingbird was released on July 11, 1960. Why is this a notable date? The Civil Rights Movement for African Americans in the US peaked during the early to mid-1960’s. This coincided with the time the novel was at the height of it’s popularity.
The novel, in a sense, was a voice for the injustice that was (and still is in many places) occurring. This is one large reason the novel has the staying power that it does and still serves as a reminder of what racial ignorance can create.
For a complete review of To Kill a Mockingbird, read the article "Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird Review."
The Importance of Moral Education
To Kill a Mockingbird starts out with the innocence of a young child, Scout Finch. Each page of the novel leads Scout into a deeper level of moral conscience. By the end of the book, Scout realizes that someone she does not understand, her neighbor Boo Radley, is a person of compassion and worthy of love.
When and how should a parent teach this type of moral education to a child? While parents want to protect their children from the world’s evils, some exposure, limited at best, is necessary to develop an adult with a strong character.
The quest to give children a moral education is no different than when Harper Lee penned the novel back in the 1950’s. The questions still remain about how this can best be accomplished.
Allowing children to experience injustice like Atticus Fitch was forced to in To Kill a Mockingbird is beneficial, provided there is guidance by a parent. The actual experience need not always be in the hard and cruel world. Allowing a teenager to read a book like To Kill a Mockingbird and dialogue with their parent about the moral lessons in the story serves as a powerful educator today, just like it did in the 1960’s.
A Lesson in Social Inequality
Social statues have existed nearly as long as man. To Kill a Mockingbird exposes these inequalities in a less than subtle way. The Finches, the protagonists in the story, set atop the hierarchy. This perspective gives Scout, the narrator, an innocent view of how rigid social classes can be.
Characters like Bob and Mayella Ewell are from the lower class population of Maycomb, Alabama. Like most in this situation, they desperately want to escape. Instead of doing this through legitimate means, they find someone of even lower class, Tom Robinson. As an African American man in the 1930’s, his social status could not be much lower. The Ewells use Robinson as a way to propel their own social class to a greater level. They fail miserably and many people are hurt as a result.
While the 21st century may not have the exact same social dynamics of Alabama in the 1930’s, much of what happened during that time still occurs today. Often the class that is deemed lowest is someone of a different nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.
The social inequality, no matter what the decade is, still exists. To Kill a Mockingbird offers powerful lessons that still apply in many circumstances today.
Harper Lee as a Pop Icon
To Kill a Mockingbird’s popularity has become synonymous with equality and justice. As such, the writer who penned the words of the novel has become an icon of these traits.
Harper Lee has been portrayed in several notable films, most of which are based on the life and works of her childhood friend, Truman Capote.
Catherine Keener played Harper Lee in the movie Capote
Sandra Bullock played Harper Lee in the movie Infamous
Aubrey Lee played a young Harper Lee in Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms For more information on Harper Lee, read the article "Who Is Harper Lee?"
With little doubt, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird remains as much a part of 21st century pop culture as it was when it was first published in 1960. The lessons on justice and equality are etched into the minds of high school and college students as they enjoy it’s timeless lessons each year.