Wednesday, April 25, 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Book Review

I just completed reading the 50th anniversary edition of this classic book, "To Kill A Mockingbird", by Harper Lee. A mockingbird entertains the listeners by its pleasant songs often mimicking other birds. The title of this book roughly implies that it is always a crime to harm a person who has always been helpful to you. This subtle lesson for everyone's life has been effectively conveyed by Harper Lee through the eyes of a third grade girl child called 'Scout' Jean Louise Finch. The main protagonist of this novel being her father Atticus Finch. Though the novel is bit dated, it is a pleasurable read even today. Let us see why.

The plot of the novel is based on the incidents in a county called Maycomb in the US. Widower Atticus Finch, an advocate by profession, lives with his two children - 'Scout' Jean Louise Finch and 'Jem' Jeremy Finch. They are accompanied in their house by a cook called Calpurnia, who is a Negro. Jem is elder to Scout and they have their neighbor Dill who accompanies them during vacations. Atticus defends a Negro called Tom, a married man, accused of raping a white woman. The girl's father Bob Ewell is a notorious trouble maker. The novel unfolds how the hierarchy in American society influences the lives of Atticus and his family.

I really liked the character of Atticus as a father. Jem and Scout learn a lot of good habits from them and Atticus never loses his cool even when his children do some mischief like poking neighbor Boo Radley. The entire story's soul is Scout who is the narrator of all the incidents leading to the fracture of Jem's hand. Their affection towards Dill, a deprived child, moves you. The first person narration of Scout brings out the innocence evident in a kid of her age. Other characters like Tom Robinson, aunt Alexandra, and cook Calpurnia are all very realistic. Even the characters such as the neighbors of Scout, Bob Ewell, and Heck Tate keep the story more interesting.

The only complaint about this novel may be that it stagnates at times on even minute details. But all the loose ends are tied and well knit towards the end making this novel a sort of thriller. It is an irony that Harper Lee never wrote another novel after writing this one. She might have surely felt that the expectations would be sky high from the readers after producing a timeless classic like "To Kill a Mockingbird". She might not have wanted to risk trying to exceed the perfect story telling evident throughout this novel. I liked this novel and strongly recommend to readers who enjoy English classics.

This novel is really a must read as it educates one as how parents have to live by example to make better humans out of their children. It also exposes the disparity prevalent in societies across the world. There was incidentally an English film of the same name based on this novel. Gregory Peck won the best actor Academy award for portraying the role of Atticus Finch. There were two more Academy awards for this film that year. However, I feel the entire credit for the film must be attributed to Harper Lee. She was instrumental in delivering a masterpiece which may be classified as one of the best English novels ever written. This novel is an important addition to any one's bookshelf.