Some novels come and throw the literary would upside down. Harper Lee and her novel To Kill a Mockingbird did just that in 1960. Now, most high school kids have to read the classic novel and rightfully so. It is a masterpiece and a novel that should be taught for centuries to come.
To Kill a Mockingbird: Summary
Narrated by six-year-old Jean Louise Finch, we are taken to 1933 to the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. Jean, who goes by the nickname Scout, spends the summer with her older brother Jeremy, who goes by Jem and their friend Dill who vacations in Maycomb every summer. And Lastly, there is Scout and Jem’s widowed father Atticus Finch, a lawyer.
The children try to spot the reclusive Arthur “Boo” Radley, a neighbor who none of the children have ever seen. Atticus is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. The towns people of Maycomb are not happy with Atticus defending a black person and insult him.
Atticus decides to keep defending Tom even though that means he is ostracized by everyone. To Atticus, what is important is the truth and not the race. That quality of his puts him and his family in danger. Tom’s life is also threatened even though there is little proof that he committied the crime.
Despite the hellstorm, Atticus holds onto his principles and defends Tom. Seeing the events through the children’s eyes showcases the opacity of racism in the south and all across The United States. Will the jury find Tom guilty just because of his skin color or will the right of law prevail?
Many people read this novel during high school and I am glad that I did. Harper Lee wrote one of the greatest novels ever and it became my first favorite novel. This was her only book for decades until To Set a Watchman was released but let’s not talk about that mistake.
A lot of the novel was inspired by true events and people. That is why the novel is as good as it is. To top all of that off, Lee was friends and neighbors with Truman Capote as a child, a famous writer.
We all know how well the novel has done but when it was first published in 1960. In 1964, Lee opened up about her thoughts when the novel was first published.
“I never expected any sort of success with ‘Mockingbird.’ … I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Kill_a_Mockingbird#cite_note-lapl-10
The pressures of following up a novel like To Kill a Mockingbird may be why we never got another novel from her not including To Set a Watchman. Anything in comparison would not be good. But I believe she should have still done it because as readers, we enjoy reading from our favorite writers and really wish the cirtics would disappear sometimes.