Saturday, Feb 21, 2009
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Type: Fiction: American History
ISBN #: 978-0446310789
Pages: 281 Mass Paperback
Purchase: $7.99 at Amazon.Com (HERE)
The Story Line
This is a book with a couple of different story lines maintained within it. The story is narrated by Scout Finch, an observant young girl living in Maycomb, Alabama. She lives with her older brother Jem, and her father Atticus. Scout’s mother has passed away, so she remains tight on the shirt-tails of Jem learning the way of the world from an intellegent viewpoint beyond her years.
In this small town, Atticus is a lawyer who has been appointed by the courts to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a poor, white girl Mayella. It becomes obvious during Tom’s trial that he was physically unable to commit this crime due to an injury to one of his arms. In addition, during this trial, it becomes clear that Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, was the actual perpetrator of beating up Mayella after her sexual advances towards Tom. Despire Atticus’ convincing defense of Tom, a jury of twelve cannot acquit him simply based on the color of his skin. Bob seeks revenge towards Atticus for bringing to light the truths about his violence against Mayella, although he denies the truth of it. Bob’s revenge is eventually enacted upon Scout and Jem one night on their way home from a school pageant. Scout and Jem are saved from this attack by their neighbor with a mysterious past, Boo Radley.
Boo has lived inside his home since an incident with the law as a young man/teen. Rumors have surfaced about Boo’s craziness leading Scout and Jem to fear the worst about him looming within his home. In the earlier points of the story, Scout and Jem’s fascination with Boo have them attempting to draw him out of his seclusion, including leaving items for him in a tree.
Throughout the story, both Atticus and his black cook, Calpurnia, exemplify the true moral compasses to Scout and the reader. The bring light to the importance of equality for all men regardless of race, color, or creed. They are the voice of reason in this town’s ever-present injustice.
This Pulitzer Prize winning book (1961), has received numerous other awards over the years. After reading upon Harper Lee’s history, I find this book to be loosely based on her life growing up in rural Alabama. She is a descendant of Robert E. Lee and the daughter of a lawyer, who attended law school, herself. In 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the truth in the content of this book. The truth I am speaking of is that no man, nor any woman, should be sentenced to a crime that he/she did not commit solely based on the color of his/her skin. In addition, no man or group of people should be locked up and judged based on their religious beliefs (as identified by Scout’s observations of Hilter’s actions against the Jews). For the time that this book was written, I find it brave of Harper Lee to speak such truths in a nation still filled with so much prejudice against the African-American population of our country.
This book has so many other characters and nuiances than as described in the story line above. There are many sub-stories about the internal prejudices of this town based on the breeding and wealth of its members. For example, Scout raises the question as to why she can’t play with a little boy just based upon who his family is.
Scout’s viewpoint, as well as Jem’s at times, represents how we should look at others and what true justice should look like. Atticus is the most patient and loving father that any girl could ever want. Dill, Scout’s childhood sweetheart, to me represented the innocence of love and joy and the naivety of the human’s mind. Calpurnia just enveloped me with warmth and integrity. The characters of this book are all key to the overall message of the story.
This book is written with southern dialects and maintains much in it about what the life was like in its time period. It maintains a high level of symbolism and leads way to study on meanings laid within the text of the book.
On Sher’s “Out of Ten Scale”:
This is the part of my review that I regret. This is obviously a national literary treasure to our country. The content is important and I believe this to be a very good choice for American Literature studies in school. It is very well written and loved by, I’m sure, most or all. However, I just didn’t PERSONALLY find a connection to the book as I had hoped. Let me give an example, in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, I was deeply connected to the narrator and the story and I loved that book. However, with Scout and Mockingbird, I didn’t feel that same connection. I did appreciate, however, the message of the book and couldn’t agree more whole-heartedly. For example, read this key passage:
“… As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”
This book is filled with truths like this one that are relevant and timeless. For that, I appreciate this literature and respect it greatly. (Now comes the big “However”). However, I just didn’t really connect to this book emotionally. I appreciate it, but I didn’t love it. Therefore, strictly from my PERSONAL viewpoint, I am awarding this book for the genre Fiction: American History an 8 out of 10. I must add, however, that this is a classic. If you haven’t read it and you are interested in reading this content, I would definitely recommend it! Reading this work only would make you a more diversified, intelligent and well-read person.