Book Review: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee

Book Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: J. B. Lippincott & Co. (1960)
Number of Pages: 281
ISBN: 978-0099549482
Date Published: Jul. 11, 1960
Price: INR 315

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Book Cover

Book Review

To Kill a Mockingbird” captivates readers from all walks of life, ensuring its place as an essential literary journey. Whether its pages were reluctantly turned during school days or out of curiosity fueled by fervent recommendations, almost everyone possesses a personal encounter with this profound novel.

At the heart of the story is Atticus Finch, an unconventional hero who defies the mold by virtue of his moral compass rather than physical prowess. Morality weaves itself intricately throughout the narrative, particularly in its exploration of religion and the perception of sin. Consider the case of Mrs. Dubose, who had a former morphine addiction and resolutely pledges to die beholden to none. In her pursuit of freedom, she manifests an innate understanding of what is right.

The novel is set in the 1930s, during the depths of the Great Depression. A time when economic hardships pushed the American Dream further out of reach. Perhaps Atticus Finch felt that his dream of an egalitarian and morally upright society was also slipping away.

To Kill a Mockingbird” delves into the instinctual grasp of right and wrong, distinguishing it from mere adherence to the law. The titular quote itself, “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” serves as an allegory for this core message. Naturally, the notion of “doing what’s right” assumes different meanings depending on the context in which the book is read. When it was written in 1960, America was undergoing a gradual ethical evolution, with strides made toward overcoming social inequality. Movements advocating women’s rights and black rights began to emerge, some even resorting to violence. Would Atticus Finch endorse such methods?

While acknowledging the enduring moral message and the book’s sheer ingenuity, a question arises as to whether students should be compelled to dissect its pages line by line, as often occurs with classics. The beauty of literature, and the reason I hold it dear, lies in the fact that an author eventually relinquishes control over the meaning of their work. Consequently, every reader extracts something unique, a lesson unexplored before. To me, that notion is beautiful. Yet, over time, the inclination to search for life’s teachings appears to have waned. Nevertheless, let us not forget that true literature, like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” carries significance across all eras. Today, Atticus Finch’s message should resound amidst the global conflicts that dominate our nightly news.

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It is disheartening to think that children worldwide suffer under tyrannical regimes or unjust legal systems. I believe a modern-day Atticus Finch would concur, finding discomfort in the knowledge that innocent lives endure inequality. He would advocate for causes beyond Harper Lee’s scope, such as LGBTQ+ rights, for at the core of his character lies acceptance of individuals. This moral stance is universal, transcending all identities and origins. Atticus Finch harbors no xenophobia, homophobia, racism, or sexism. He perceives humanity in a unified light. Who knows? Perhaps he would even champion the rights of animals.

I encourage you to get a copy of Harper Lee’s wonderful novel and embark on this transformative experience. Regardless of the outcome, it remains an extraordinary work that perpetually ignites the flame of inspiration within those who possess goodness in their hearts.