The novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960 has remained one of the most enormously popular novels of Harper Lee. The novel is about Jean Louis Finch whose screen name is Scout describing the events surrounding her father, Atticus, and all his team of legal defense that constitute Tom Robinson who is accused of rape. His legal defense of Tom Robinson, a local black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Scout and Jem are under three year trial where they witness impacts of prejudice and hatred. However, both maintained their integrity and courage which they were taught as kids. The setting occurred at a time when people struggled for their Civil Rights especially on issues regarding racism in South America. The author uses Atticus as a protagonist who shows his role as a person with moral standards and a person with impeccable traits that lawyers emulate. The other main character in the novel is Tom Robinson, a controversial black man who feels disappointed due to the colour of his skin. Racism forms the primary theme in the novel. Ideally, the unjust injustice on skin color as Tom Robinson observes together with the action he never intended to do form the theme of the story. Despite there is an immense number of controversial matter in the book, racism stands out the most.
Major characters and the plot
The narration of the story occurs at Maycomb, Alabama in 1930. Mr. Finch was a lawyer and a statesman in Alabama who relentlessly defended the blacks in against the racially operated legal system at the South. Scout and Jem were cared for by their housekeeper Calpurnia especially where their father was away (Santos, 2009). The two little siblings had a relationship with Dill Harris, a new boy who came to Maycomb to spend summer vacation. The novel reveals a similarity of character in both Dill and Truman who was his childhood friend from the south. Elsewhere, we find that Dill goes back to the North to meet his family and Scout begins her first grade school.
Atticus is appointed as the defense attorney to represent Tom Robinson from the accusation of raping Mayella Ewell. The complainant and her father, Mr Ewell, spend their days in poverty out of town. This humble family causes trouble and malicious attracts little to friendship in the town. Despite the dislike of this family by the townspeople, Atticus receives cold recognition from the white community because he is advocating justice for the black. Scout and Jem are taunted in school because of the legal stands of their father. However, Atticus remained unshaken by the influence of the racial prejudice and relentlessly teaches morals to his kids. Atticus’s children view him as frustratingly sober and bookish. This perception changes when the sheriff commands him to shoot a dog that was moving around the street (Holcomb, 2002). These two young sibling learn their dad is a renown deadly marksman in the entire Maycomb but reluctant to use his skills, unless necessary. Alexandra, an aunt to scout, comes to live with the Atticus’ family. Thus, she begins to counter the liberal behavior that Atticus shows Scout and replaces with her motherly behaviors. At the beginning of the trial, Mr Finch tries to save the two kids from the racial prejudice and anger in the courtroom. During the hearing session, Atticus is able to prove the innocence of Tom by showing to the prosecutor, while Mayella shows her right side of the face that is beaten and bruised. Separately, Tom has a left arm that cannot function due to previous injuries. According to Mr Finch, Tom was unable to use his left hand to strike Mayella at the right side of the face. In his concluding remarks, Atticus suggest the assailant could be Bob, who beat her but no rapping allegation occurred. He appealed to the jury sense of justice and not racial prejudice in their deliberation.
The primary thematic concern of the novel reveals high level of racism and justice. Mr Finch signifies a liberal point of view that is different to the whites who are full of hatred and prejudice. Therefore, he presents the opportunity to show the importance of morals and values of fairness and equality as well as tranquility to children by countering the evil of racism. The author employed different allegories and imageries in the novel to show conflict due to racism. For instance, the attitude of the kids whenever they interact with Boo shows one episode where prejudice in relation to race comes. Moreover, the action of a dog threatening Maycomb County shows the menace of racism. Meanwhile, the Atticus mandate of shooting down rabid dog is perceived as a commitment through his extreme legal skills and experience in fighting racism and prejudice within the town. Nevertheless, the main symbolism in the novel is Mockingbird that helps in forming the theme of racism and prejudice. The mockingbird represents victims of oppression, more specifically, African- American community. Even though Scout is handed air rifles with their father during Christmas, she is cautioned against shooting the mockingbirds because they simply sing their hearts out for them.
The impartial application of justice towards Mr Robinson, where the judge shows racism and prejudice falsely accuses and unjustly tries an innocent person is further shown through the use of mockingbird. As the novel ends, Scout notices the circumstance that Boo goes through during the trial shows some similar aspects to the shooting of a Mockingbird. Racism and prejudice extremely dictates the judgment in court. Atticus shows the essence of good morals to the legal system (Lee, 1990). He is an exclusively principled, liberal lawyer who advocates for the rights of a wrongly accused black man. He explains to Scout how the presiding over justice in the American justice systems harbor bias, therefore, tainting the working of the entire judicial process. Though Atticus remains optimistic about the administration of justice at judicial system, he fails to convince the judicial system in order to help Tom gain his freedom. He expresses his utmost disillusionment when he supports to conceal Boo’s culpability in stabbing Ewell to death. He makes a decision to use his own principles regarding justice instead of seeking justice from the jury, who are vulnerable and compromised with racial prejudice.
Finally, the novel reveals a current narration of a girl nourishing from South, who is challenged by awakening of morals. The novel shows an observer’s point of view who is a child. Thus, it demonstrates the mindset of adult speaker and hindsight point of view on the development of her identity in life. Scout tries to challenge the different forces that introduce her to given roles in relation to gender that is typical to Maycomb County. Alexandra strives to instill the traditional gender role to her and fades away tomboyish values in her contrary to her father’s beliefs. Upon observing the ugliest nature of events around the trial, Scout is convinced to distance herself from tomboyish values and pursue the roles of a lady outlined in the social norms. The novel also explores the theme of heroism alongside the idea of role models. The author highlighted the importance of the story especially with respect to the letters Scout writes to her father. Scout sees her father as a person of moral standards and a true person who is a role model to the children. Initially, the story reveals that Scout and Jem regard view their father as a nobody who is a weak character since he is unable to join the different accolades and standards of the masculinity in the north. However, they later realized the hidden attributes of Atticus. Besides, he has a skill hence he can hold undisputed courage, humor and intelligence in the entire Maycomb County. They become to regard his highness as a hero in his principles and rights.
In conclusion, To Kill a Mockingbird is a famous novel with mixed reactions. The majority of the reviewers has appreciated the story as a helpful and reveals evil of racial prejudice in the Alabama. However, some reviewers found critical faults in the novel citing that the author fails to perfectly use the voice of Scout at her adult age alongside the childhood life point of view. The author developed her novel through her attitudes which were part of her culture alongside civil rights movements. These civil rights struggles continue today at different levels in the society, rendering the novel a timeless novel. Perhaps it is fair to conclude that the enduring achievement of Lee’s novel is to represent racial prejudice and a multiplicity of tensions motivated by misapprehension through the microcosm of Maycomb County. The readers perhaps proceed to respond to the novel precisely because of the racism still at the peak in some nations.
- Lee, H. (1990). To kill a mockingbird. Litigation, 68-58.
- Holcomb, M. (2002). To Kill a Mockingbird. FILM QUART, 34-40.
- Santos, M. (2009). To Kill a Mockingbird. The Hero’s Journey, 207-213.