“Atticus, he was real nice.”
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic. This book has been haunting me since the ninth grade. I never finished reading the book because I didn’t like it, so I packed it around for a decade, along with the guilt of having such a famous book half-read on my shelve. I read it. Cover to cover, every page. It took a very very very long time for me to get through this classic tale. So long, in fact, I gave up and listened to the audiobook.
Should you read TKAM?
No. To Kill a Mockingbird is a book we need to learn to let go of. While it holds some prevalent truths, it also enforces themes of a time that has come to pass. I promise when I took the time To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult, I pushed my teenage distaste aside, but some feelings don’t change over time. I disliked the book in high school, dislike the book as an adult.
Scout, our child narrator, recalls the summer Jem, her brother, broke his arm and the events leading up to it. Scout is rough around the edges tomboy. She has a spitfire personality, which is balanced nicely by her brother Jem. Jem is a few years older, still childlike, but slowly maturing into a young man. They are raised by their housekeeper, Calpurnia, and their father, Atticus. Atticus is a well-respected lawyer.
Atticus is asked to represent an African American man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping the daughter of Bob Uwell. Atticus takes on the case, knowing it will take a toll on his family. Scout, our narrator, recalls the events that unfold as the trial comes and goes. Harper Lee tackles the problems of a southern 1930s town: mental illness, racism, poverty, social class, bullying, slurs, and pulls inspiration from the Scottsboro trial.
Through the events of the trail, the finch children mature and learn to value the morals their father has taught them.
What else happens in TKAM??
Scout and Jem enjoy their summers with their summer-time friend Dill. They play harmless games focused around a neighborhood family, the Radley’s, fueled by hateful rumors spread by the townsfolk. The Radley’s have a son, known as Boo, who has a mental illness or some sort of troubles that are never fully disclosed. Because of his behavior and his parents’ reactions, the town spreads insane gossip about the family.
The Finch children face judgment for their father’s choice to represent Tom. They see the true colors of their small town that is plagued with racism. As the court case unfolds and the truth comes to light, Atticus and his family start to receive threats. One evening the children are attacked and saved by none other than Boo Radley.
And there is more…
TKAM is a tricky book because it has two plots that overlap. This makes the book feel like two parts, the second being more exciting for readers. The first half of the book builds the Boo Radly plotline. Establishing the rumors and creepiness of the Finch’s neighbor Boo Radley. The second half of the book focuses on the trial of Tom Robinson. Atticus is representing Tom in court, this brings many of Maycomb’s racist issues to light. While allllll that is going on TKAM is also well known for its coming of age theme, some might argue that this could be a third plotline. Scout and Jem mature throughout the novel with the guidance of Atticus, the trial, and just plain aging. *whew* I know, what else could possibly be going on in this book? There is more, but I do not see the need to dive deeper.
Have you read this classic?