I want to use this blog not only to look at the life and times of amazing people, but also to dissect ideas and social issues, there is no better way to do this than through literature. I will be presenting you with a series of books that I think are more than worthy of anyone’s time, starting today.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee was probably one of the first of the modern classics that I read of my own accord (I had to read Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm at school). Set in Monroeville, Alabama in 1936, the story is told by 6-year-old narrator Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch and it is through her eyes that we view issues such as racism, rape, sexism, and social injustices. Through dealing with these issues, we obviously see a coming of age of our narrator whose formative years are very much accelerated because of the world she lives in.
Without wanting to spoil too much of the novel for those of you who haven’t read it, the plot is loosely based around the time in Scout’s life when her father, Atticus, a lawyer, is defending a black man in a court of law in the face of accusations of raping a white woman. The novel also see’s Scout and her older brother Jem harassing the home-bound Arthur ‘Boo’ Radley, reading for a cruel old lady down the road, spending long summers playing with their best friend Dill Harris, all whilst irritating the family cook, Calpurnia. Throughout this period Scout begins to develop a set of core values and beliefs as she grows up which continue to chop and change as she grapples with what is right.
I could spend hours talking to you about all the different themes in this novel but I think I will try and deal with just two more issues.
Firstly, I’d like to talk about Atticus Finch, Scout’s father. Possibly one of the most loved father figures in literature, as well as being my personal favourite character I have ever come across, in any book. Throughout the novel, Atticus (single father to his unruly children) demonstrates all the morality and ethics of a true American hero. Whilst Scout expresses her disappointment that her father doesn’t hunt or farm like the fathers of her classmates, instead preferring to read and play the harp, we as readers can see that Atticus is in fact a gentleman whereas all the other fathers in the area are a more typical definition of men at the time. Whilst perhaps not to the liking of Scout, Atticus teaches her brother how to become a gentleman and his quotable and thoughtful style of fathering has made him a figure of American literature and very much a household name.
Secondly, I’d like to point out how much I enjoyed the structure of this book. It feels very much like a real-life story, ebbing and flowing as any life would. The novel doesn’t simply build to one climactic conclusion of a main story but rather brings many different stories to a close at different points within its pages. This style leads to a real satisfaction upon reading as you realise that the book is about so much more than entertaining the reader, instead acting as Harper Lee’s mouthpiece for voicing her beliefs and showing what she holds dear.
I really did enjoy this book and the more I think about it and the longer it has been since I have read it, the better it becomes. Lee is a true master of style in prose and whilst the use of a 6-year-old as a narrator has its funny points it also leads to profound moments of realisation about biases you may hold that you didn’t even know about. I would recommend this book to anyone, young or old as a true classic and one of my favourite books ever, happy reading.