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To kill a mocking bird: Book Review

By sawembe Oct 30, 2013 2276 Words
Introduction to the book
A book survey conducted by the Library of Congress in 1991 on book readers rated To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee as one of the books that had great influence on their lives. The book that received most citation was the Bible, with To kill a Mockingbird coming in second position (Fernando, 2012). It is important to note that the book begins at the end, with the author making use of flashback as a literary technique. It starts with adult Jean Scout finch going through her childhood memories on how her brother got hurt on his arm. The story further unfolds in a moderate pace; with two separate plots that later on merge at the end of the novel.

The novel’s first plot is centered on Arthur “Boo” Radley whereas the second plot focuses on Scout and Atticus Finch. In the former plot, Arthur is seen as a monster and lives a few blocks from where the finches live. Scout and Dill, a neighbor makes pranks on Arthur with the aim of making him come out of his shattered house (Lee, 1960). Conversely, Arthur gains interest and sends the pair small gifts. Finally, Arthur shows up when the two pranksters are in dire need of his help. In the latter plot, a local judge appoints Atticus Finch to be the counselor who defends a black man. The accused facing charges of rape against a white woman is known as Tom Robinson. Despite being falsely accused, Atticus believes that his client will lose the case. However, he takes up the case and at one point manages to save his client from a lynch mob (Lee, 1960).

The two plot lines intertwine with two broad themes. These are justice and tolerance. Other sub- themes that develop in the novel are prejudice, the effects of mob mentality, gender war and roles, civil rights as well as bravery. Lee uses Atticus to merge the two stories together. Atticus advices Scot that the only way she could understand Arthur was by putting herself in her shoes. Here, tolerance is illustrated whereas justice is exhibited in his defense of Tom Robinson (Fernando, 2012).

To kill a Mockingbird has two main aspects. The novel’s title, early introduced by Lee subtly, is depicted as an immoral and unjust act by the people aiming to kill the innocent Tom Robinson. The title also critically highlights the impact of racism and how serious it was in the USA. Analysis of characters

The book has major and minor characters. The major characters of the novel include Jean Scout Finch, Jem and Atticus Finch, Arthur Boo Radley, Bob Ewell and Tom Robinson. The main protagonist and narrator of the story is Jean Scout Finch. She narrates the events of the story as an adult, which took place when she was between 6 to 9 years of age. There is no mention of her mother, as she lives with her brother Jem and father Atticus. The family lives in a southern town known as Maycomb (Fernando, 2012). She is considered to be a smart and kind girl. In addition, she is also a tomboy. Scout sees the good in people and believes that the people of Maycomb are good at heart. However, throughout the course of the book, this is constantly tested during Tom Robinson’s trial, which is marred by prejudice and a lot of hate. This gave her a different perspective of view and more understanding of her societal expectations (Fernando, 2012).

Atticus Finch is both a dad an attorney who was widowed. He is the father to Scout and Jem. He is originally from Maycomb and is deeply rooted to it. His role in the book breaks the stereotypes of lawyers, who in many cases are considered cunning and mean. Unlike other whites in the town of Maycomb, he is committed to equality between blacks and whites. Moreover, his parenting skills are unrivalled as throughout the course of the story, he instills morality and justice in his children (Lee, 1960). His love for justice sees most of the people in his hometown turn against him, for choosing to defend a black man. This spirals down to his two children who are mistreatment by their friends and adults likewise. The Arthur uses Atticus to revel the theme of justice and tolerance as well.

Jeremy finch, mostly referred to as Jem, is the brother to Scout. He and his sister are good friends and most of the times play together. Jem, unlike his sister is more reserved and quieter. However, he holds people in high regard and feels let down when his expectations remain unfulfilled. He loves American football and hopes one day he will play it. He is very close with his younger sister and always wants to protect her. Being brought up under the virtues of justice, his belief is quite shaken when he sees how people can be cruel (Lee, 1960).

Arthur Boo Radley is a loner who rarely if never, leaves his house. The people of Maycomb rarely have a sight of him, prompting Scout, Dill and Jem to play pranks on him. Throughout the novel, he is seen to be kind-hearted as the rest of the townspeople become heartless and cruel (Lee, 1960). Despite being emotionally hurt by his father, he does not lose the goodness he has and even showers Scout, Dill and Jem with gifts. In addition, the title of the novel alludes to this character, as one who becomes reclusive due to the evil that is encompassed by society.

Bob Ewell, lives near the Dump Town with nine of his children. His is a very evil and ignorant man who coerces her daughter to claim that Tom had raped her while he himself had beat up his own daughter, according to the evidence presented in court. In addition, he is irresponsible parents who would rather drink than buy his children food. He begrudges the Finch family and attacks Atticus’s child later on in the novel (Conevey, 2013).Tom Robinson is the man who has been accused to have raped Bob Ewell’s daughter, Mayela Ewell. The main sub-plots of the story revolve around these characters. However, there are other characters that play a supporting role. Plot Summary

The plot of the novel is centered on Jean Scout Finch, who is also the main protagonist. The family resides in Maycomb, a fictional town in Alabama. The novel’s setting is during the times of the great depression. Despite this, the finch family is seen to be doing quite well in terms of its finances. Atticus Finch is a lawyer by profession has a great clientele and is a hardworking man who believes in fairness, justice and equality. His children, Jem and Scout make friends with Dill, and the latter two become the best of friends. Dill was in the neighborhood over summer holidays and the three become playmates, becoming quite interested in the house of Nathan Radley, where Arthur Boo Radley lives. The trio is spooked by the house given that Boo rarely comes out, and is believed to have been indoors for years. The children are fascinated by the fact that someone was always leaving them presents, at a tree near Boo’s house. However, they remain disappointed as they never get to see him. Eventually, Nathan Radley, Boo’s brother blocks the knotholes with cement, prompting Boo to no longer leave them any gifts. A fire breaks out at a neighbor’s house and someone covers Scout, with a blanket and she later on thinks that it was Boo who did so. Jem confides to his father about the presents and why they thought Boo was offering them protection.

The court later on appoints Atticus as the lawyer to Tom Robinson, a black man accused to having beaten up and raping Mayella Ewell. Maycomb is predominantly a white town that is full of racists. They become outraged on learning that Atticus had accepted to represent a Black man in court. They had already passed the verdict of guilty on Tom Robinson, despite the fact that he was yet to stand on trial. As a result, Scout and Jem are ridiculed and bullied by their friends and school mates likewise. Atticus is christened a ‘nigger lover’ as well. Scout fights back any accusations against her father. Despite the racial difference, the children attend a black church where they are taken to by their cook called Calpurnia. It is ironical that the children, being white, are more accepted by the Black community and treated harshly by their fellow whites, given their father’s decision to defend Tom.

Alexandra, who is the sister to Atticus, comes visiting the following summer. Dill is treated badly by his family runs away from home and to the Finches (Lee, 1960). This is succeeded by the commencement of Tom Robinson’s trial. Tom is arrested and put in jail, but a mob is gathered outside wanting to lynch him as they did not want him to go to trial. Atticus faces the mob and criticizes them for their actions. He is joined by his children and Scout, manages to politely shame a man in crowd for his son’s actions. The man, out of embarrassment helps to disperse the crowd.

Atticus’s children decide to sit in the ‘colored balcony’ where other blacks had gathered. Their father knows that they are learning about compassion through this gesture. As the trial a progress, Atticus brings forth evidence that Mayella Ewell, was lying. It was Mayella who made the sexual advances and on being caught by her father, was beaten up causing her face to have bruises and marks (Lee, 1960). She claimed that the marks were from her struggle from the rape ‘ordeal’ inflicted by Tom Robinson. Despite compelling evidence in Tom’s favor, the court’s jury finds him guilty. It is no surprise as they are all white. Tom imprisoned but is shot dead on trying to escape. The trial leaves Jem’s belief is justice system shaken and he becomes pessimistic about it.

Despite Mayella and Bob Ewell winning the case, his image is completely tainted as the case embarrasses him. His bitterness forces him into a revenge mission against the judge and Atticus. He becomes a menace to Tom’s widow, he manages to break into the judge’s house and spits on Atticus upon meeting him on the streets. Following a school’s Halloween party, Bob attacks both Scout and Jem with a knife as a revenge mission against Atticus (Lee, 1960). During the struggle, Jem breaks an arm but the kids are mysteriously rescued by man they believe is Arthur Boo Bradley.

On arrival at the scene, the sheriff of Maycomb finds Bob Ewell dead. The sherrif cautions Atticus against holding Jem and Arthur Boo responsible and they are not to be tried. Bob is adjudged to having fell died by falling on his own knife. Finally, Scout is able to understand Boo and matures in her reasoning. She finally decides that despite the hatred and prejudice that society has shown, it will not change her view on kindness and compassion to others. Biography of the Author

Born in 1926 on April 28th to Frances Cunningham Finch Lee and Amasa Coleman Lee is American Author Nelle Harper Lee (Spencer, 2013). She was raised up in Monroeville, Alabama. Her father was a Lawyer by profession serving the state from 1926 to 1938. A tomboy by nature, Lee Harper was great friends with Truman Capote, who was the inspiration behind the character Dill in the award winning novel To kill a Mockingbird.

In 1931, trials took place in Scottsboro Alabama whereby nine black men were accused of raping two white girls (Spencer, 2013). The defendants were almost lynch a day before the trial and were denied a lawyer until the day trials began. Despite evidence finding them innocent, they were found guilty by an all white jury. Harper Lee was left in awe by the events that ensued and this provided the basis for her novel To kill a Mockingbird.

Between 1944 and 1945, she studied at Alabama’s Huntingdon College before movie to the University of Alabama where she studied Law. She later on went to Oxford University in England. Lee moved to New York where she worked with Eastern Airlines before devoting herself to writing. She lived economically to and from New York to take care for her father whose health was ailing (Conevey, 2013).

Under the guidance of her editor Tay Hohoff, she published To kill a Mockingbird, her only novel in 1960. Despite mixed reactions from reviewers, Lee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, with her sales hitting well over 15 million. The novel was mainly based her experiences and a movie of the same title was made in 1962 (Conevey, 2013). Since then, she has received honorary doctorates from various quarters and was also named to the National Council of Arts by President Johnson in 1966. She currently in New York and keeps a low profile. She went on to Publish short essays such as Christmas to Me, When Children Discover America and Love--In Other Words. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

References
Conevey, M. (2013, May 23). Theatre review: To Kill a Mockingbird, Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, London. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk Fernando, R. (2012, March 9). Book Of A Lifetime: To Kill A Mockingbird, By Harper Lee. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/ Lee, H (1960). To kill a Mockingbird. New York: J.B. Lippincott & Co. Spencer, C. (2013, May 23). To Kill a Mockingbird, Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, review. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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