Allow me to start out with the misconceptions I had about this book.
1. I thought this was a story about an eight year old girl who is raped by some white guys, but the accused is an innocent black guy.
2. It was incredibly sad and depressing.
I cannot tell you how I got these impressions. But it was these two things that made me avoid the book like crazy.
Recently, though, I figured it would be a good idea to read those books I've been ignoring. To Kill a Mockingbird
was one of them. Only last week the copy I ordered was delivered at my doorstep. I just finished it. You can see I have given it five stars.
I enjoyed it so much! It is a story written from the perspective of a little girl called Scout. We see a little out-of-the-way town, the foibles and idocycracies of its people through the eyes of a child. As a result there are many things that are so humourous but extremely profound.
The blurb at the back of my book says: A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl.
I must admit that that phrase puzzled me throughout the reading of this book. As it was, while the blurb seems to indicate that the book is about the trial of a falsely accused black man, it is actually a story of the Finches - father and children. Atticus is a lawyer and a widower, and so he brings up his son and daughter the best he can with the help of his black helper, Calpurnia. He is an upright man, determined that he is the same man both at home and in public. His children are all he has got, as he says, and it is his goal to always do the right by them, for them before them and at all times so that he never has to feel ashamed for the man he is.
In other words, Atticus Finch is a rare breed. And I believe that the "mockingbird" of this novel is Atticus Finch for he was a man who harmed no one but tried his best to make as many people as he could worth the living.
Atticus said to Jem one day, 'I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after the birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'
That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
'Your father's right,' she said. 'Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'
I really enjoyed the element of mystery that surrounded the Radley House, and the end was a real surprise. As for the characters, I don't know that 'endearing' is the right word for me to use...I really liked them; respected them and enjoyed the variety of them. It was nice to go back into a child's mind, see the world in it's actual simplicity, and be reminded that it is only adults that make things so complicated. There were times when any character told the children they would understand something when they were grown up, I'd feel a twinge of sadness....they would become just another bunch of adults. But Atticus is a compassionate, sincere, sensible man, and it was interesting to see the manner in which he had chosen to bring up his children.
I was inclined to dislike, a bit, Atticus' sister, Alexandra. But she's fine when one realises the times she comes from, her breeding and the fact that she does have kind and affectionate heart. Maudie is a delightful character, and it was always a relief to know that the children could count on her once they got to know her.
As for the whole trial. I was more than half through the book when the trial was even mentioned. It lasted a handful of chapters, and while I can't say I wan on tenterhooks, as usual I found it fascinating when there's some lawyering in a story.
I would recommend this book to anybody and everybody. But then, it's a classic. It doesn't need me to recommend it, does it? :)
I have a question to those who have read this book - Whom do you think the 'mockingbird' in the title refers to?
I'd really like to know.