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To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Author: Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is the classic bildungsroman novel and takes place in the town of Maycomb County which acts as a microcosm for Southern America in the 1930s. The novel is told from the perspective of the older self of Jean-Louise "Scout" Finch who we see as a young girl during the event of the novel. Watching the events of the novel unfold through eight-year-old Scout's eyes makes us see the innocence that Scout possesses and the lack of understanding she has, we see this particularly in the first part of the novel which centres around Scout, her brother Jem and their friend Dill as they try to make Arthur "Boo" Radley come out of his house which he never leaves. As we continue through the first part we see how our characters are maturing and experience the life lessons they are taught by their father, Atticus- particularly considering others- but we also see them neglecting what they have learnt, for example when Jem destroys Mrs Dubose's gardens and when Scout fights her cousin Francis, we see in these two events that our characters are not yet mature and must learn that real courage is not fighting someone but continuing through hard times when you know things may not end well. The character development done by Lee is sensational and the supporting characters all serve a purpose to the children and also give them valuable lessons like the aforementioned Mrs Dubose who displays true courage by trying and succeeding in getting rid of her morphine addiction and Calpurnia who shows them that even though the black community has almost nothing, they still have an unwavering spirit.
Matthew Trundle (16)
In the second part of the novel we see the children develop further as they witness the trial of Tom Robinson- the metaphorical mockingbird in this novel. Tom is accused of raping and beating Mayella Ewell- a member of the family notorious for being "trash"- as the trial unfolds we see that Tom Robinson is undoubtedly innocent through Atticus' incredible defence but he is still hated upon by the majority of the town as we have viewed in the part of the novel where a lynch mob goes after Tom Robinson which serves as a key part in Scout's development as she unwittingly fends them off. How Tom could be treated in such a way highlights Lee's many themes of prejudice, injustice, segregation and racism that are used throughout the novel and in ways that we somehow don't expect such as the Finch children prejudging Boo Radley. In the trial we also see the theme of good versus evil as Tom Robinson's testimony goes against the despicable Bob Ewell's, this theme is also made more complex as we have a character who comes somewhere in between good and evil- Mayella Ewell- even though she lies in her testimony at the expense of Tom Robinson, she is described by Scout as "the loneliest person on Earth" and we see she lies in her testimony as she fears her father's wrath. The verdict of the jury is ultimately gut-wrenching and what takes place afterwards is heart-breaking and seeing it through Scout's eyes who does not comprehend how people can be so unfair towards others makes this part harder to read but it is undeniably a turning point in Scout's development. The novel does end on a positive note and Bob Ewell pays for what he has done and it is uplifting and shows to the reader that life is sometimes just and fair.
A key theme that runs throughout the novel is family and relationships. We see consistently the strength of the Finch family bonds as the children go through the main events of the novel. The valuable life lessons that are taught to the children by Atticus in the novel are some of the most quotable parts of the novel and are some of the most famous lines in literature. The family bonds are not always about Atticus and the children; Calpurnia is also see as a member of the family and acts as a key mother figure to Scout-as Scout never knew her mother- and teaches her essential skills that she must know in life. Another figure is Aunt Alexandra who is ruthless is attempting to get Scout to act like a lady but also cares for the children's development and that they will grow up in a correct way, she also acts like a mother figure to Scout. The final mother figure to Scout is Miss Maudie whom Scout adores and loves the most out of the three, Miss Maudie loves Scout and treats her like a surrogate daughter and influences Scout during the Aunt Alexandra missionary circle as she is the only honest woman there who speaks the truth. The family bonds help all the children to mature and have their own perception of events such as the trial, but the most pivotal moment is when Scout understands why "mockingbirds" need to be protected at the end of the novel and finally understands Boo Radley, showing she has matured.
Seeing these characters go through this journey is endearing and I would recommend this novel to everyone. I believe the themes of this novel and the memorable characters present make for essential reading and the unforgettable quotes uttered by the characters will be in your mind for some time. Lee's presentation of important themes told through such an innocent and naïve (at least initially) protagonist makes this novel even more of an achievement and that is why I believe it should be experienced and cherished by all.