Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Hi, friends. Today’s classic post focuses on a profound work about the South, prejudice, and growing up. The movie is also a wonderful classic, but this post primarily pertains to the novel.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Published in 1960 and set in Maycomb, Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird is the fictional, retroactive account of a couple years in a young girl’s life that shook her small town to the core. Scout Finch, our narrator, begins the story with some background information, explaining that Maycomb was a modest farming town. Her father, Atticus, was a lawyer, and her brother, Jem, was four years her senior; her mother had died a while back, and they had a black nurse, Calpurnia. The action begins one summer when Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill visiting his aunt (their neighbor) for the summer. The three kids develop a morbid curiosity about a mysterious man called “Boo” who lives down the street at the Radley house (though they’ve never seen him). This plot line parallels the main one, which is Atticus’s appointed court defense of a black man accused of rape, Tom Robinson. Over the course of a couple years, the kids take daring risks that cause near-encounters with Boo while they grapple with social backlash from their father actually believing/helping a black man. Scout has a big heart, but she’s rambunctious and impatient. As Jem grows into a young man, he often gets overwhelmed by his emotions, acting angsty. For both Scout and Jem, at different ages with different perspectives, Atticus represents a beacon of meek wisdom; his lines are the most quotable and touching. The story lines eventually tie together, and through Boo and Tom, Scout learns that we shouldn’t judge books by their covers.

I don’t cry often while reading fiction, but this novel sent a few hot tears down my cheeks. It’s heart warming and heartbreaking. It’s also a short and fast read for a classic.

Additional Details

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Atticus Finch & Bob Ewell (Robinson’s accuser)

The title of To Kill a Mockingbird refers to a conversation in the novel where Atticus tells Scout that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird because they sing beautifully and don’t harm anyone. Lee used the title Go Set a Watchman then Atticus during the editing process before selecting the final title.

Though the novel isn’t autobiographical, Lee’s past factors heavily into the story. Lee’s father was an attorney who defended two black men accused of murder. She also grew up in Alabama.

To Kill a Mockingbird was instantly successful. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.

The film version was released on Christmas Day in 1962, only about two years after the novel was published.

Thanks for reading! Do you love this story like I do?

16 comments

  1. We were assigned this book in middle school, then watched the film in class. I was the only black kid in my school, and the use of the n-word in the film (context didn’t matter) upset me. Each time, a boy turned around and grinned at me. I wanted to disappear. At least I managed to hold back the tears until I got home, though. I did enjoy Scout and Boo. Atticus pinged on my autism-dar, and I recognized his non-emotional drive to follow the law as less than non-racist. I didn’t read Go Set A Watchman because the author didn’t want it published. I don’t know the familial politics that overruled her wishes. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sucks. I’m sorry you went through that! Your classmates apparently weren’t getting the message that prejudice is wrong. :/
      I haven’t read the other version, but I don’t think I want to taint my view of TKaM, so what you said is another good reason to avoid it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m about to start The Portrait of the Young Man as an Artist by James Joyce. I failed to get through Dubliners, so if this one is just as difficult, I’m thinking Beloved by Toni Morrison :). Are you reading anything?

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I have never read the book, but I have watched the movie and loved it! I do intend to read the book eventually, but my list of reads is pretty long so we will see when that actually happens!

    Liked by 1 person

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