Book Review (To Kill a Mocking Bird)


Set in a small Alabaman town in the 1940s, the novel’s strength lies in demonstrating how bigotry works through stereotyping. Slap a label on that’s a general condemnation and then you needn’t look at the unique human being behind it. The title of the book pinpoints this theme: ‘to kill a mockingbird,’ says one of the characters, ‘is a sin (because mockingbirds) 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.’ But a mockingbird is a bird, birds eat up crops, therefore mockingbirds are fair game. When the stereotype wins, justice loses — and the mockingbird, a victim, not a vandal, is dead.


That society is full of human mockingbirds, stereotyped and then unjustly punished, is the theme of the book. One ‘mockingbird’ is literally killed. The alternative is to find the individual behind the label. Before judging anybody, says the novel, you should ‘climb into his skin and walk around in it’ so that you see the world from his viewpoint.


Tolerance, therefore, is not a passive virtue. It involves a positive act of identification, always requiring sensitivity, and sometimes great courage. The children through whose eyes the action is seen demonstrate this repeatedly. Once, for example, they learn to overcome their horror of a dying neighbour (an ancient, dribbling, convulsing morphine addict). They eventually stop seeing her from the outside and came to admire her for her internal qualities, but it’s a tough lesson.


And if tolerance is an active virtue, the novel goes on to suggest, then punishment can be an active vice if it is motivated by negative emotions like ignorance or fear. Inappropriate punishment — like the racists’ injustices to the black community — creates more problems than they pretend to solve.


Plainly, the incident is meant to impress upon the reader that Finch chooses nonviolence through strength, not weakness. But a much more interesting and genuine dilemma would have been posed had an antigun Finch been faced with a mad dog when he didn’t know one end of a gun from another. Finch’s chief dislike, though, is racism — well, of a sort: ‘There’s nothing more sickening to me,’ he says, ‘than a low-grade white man who’ll take advantage of a Negro’s ignorance.’ Is he really talking about racial equality? Sounds to me more like noblesse oblige.


In the climactic courtroom scene. Finch is defence lawyer to a young black man unjustly accused of assaulting a white girl. The true assailant turns out to be her father. The defendant is the most chivalrous, submissive, clean-living young black that ever lived, and the girl’s father a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Perhaps, twenty-odd years ago when Harper Lee wrote the book, she couldn’t risk moral ambiguities. But it seems a pity that she replaces one set of stereotypes with another. Can’t a black man be innocent of assault without having to be perfect on all counts — including perfect servility?


To Kill A Mockingbird is a novel based on the childhood of a young girl. Bob Ewell, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson and Scout were all main characters. Bob Ewell is a mean, racist man who accuses Tom of raping his daughter. Boo Radley is a crazy person, so the children fear him. Tom Robinson is a black man who is trying to survive in the town with racism problems. Scout is the young girl who tells the story of what happens in her town. Bob has problems with Tom, so he said that he saw Tom rape his daughter. Scout has problems with Boo because she wanted to be friends and he didn't. My favorite character is Scout, because she wanted to know who Boo Radley really is, and she was determined to find out.
If I could relate to a character in the story, it would be Atticus. Atticus is a man who took up the challenge of a new type of legal case. He, a white man, is willing to defend a black man. Atticus took the challenge because if he doesn't than he couldn't hold up his head in town, and he couldn't hold his morals and principals. He felt that Tom Robinson was innocent, and he knew that Tom