To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the great American classic novels. Taught in schools throughout the nation, it offers up a tale told by young Scout Finch, who—even as a young child—must deal with an array of social and racial issues that is still relevant today. Scout depends on the love and guidance of her father, Atticus Finch, and the protection of her older brother Jem along with conventional and unconventional friendships as she learns lessons about life, truth, and self-preservation in the Deep South of the 1930s.
Scout Finch and her brother Jem come of age through the experience of dealing with the turmoil that surrounds their family when their attorney father Atticus is appointed to represent a young black man accused of raping a poor white woman in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Along the way, they experience friendships that defy color and social stigma; they learn the importance of the truth and face the reality that many people will trade character and integrity for comfort.
To Kill a Mockingbird’s author, Harper Lee, is said to have based the book on her own young life in Monroeville, AL, and to have modeled Atticus Finch on her father, Amasa Lee. She won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel in 1997, and it has remained her only published work. Recently, Lee published a book that she wrote before Mockingbird, and it was published in July of 2015. Go Set a Watchman is not the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird but is the parent book on which Mockingbird was based.
- Additional Information
ISBN 0061743526 EAN 9780061743528 Publisher HarperCollins Publish Date May 11, 2010 Copyright Date Jan 1, 2010 Binding Hardcover
Customer Reviews 4 item(s)
- Why TKAM Endures
"To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee, published in 1960. It was immediately successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old.” (Wikipedia)
As a fifteen-year-old growing up in Monroe County, I’d been surrounded by mockingbirds all my life; not only the actual birds, but the presence of the hometown author as well. I’d heard of Harper Lee. I knew she wrote this super-famous book. So what? In the eyes of a typical fifteen-year-old, this stuffy old book was nothing I should be excited about. This was my summer, my time to be off and try to find something to get into in this sleepy, small town. Why should I have to waste my time reading something that has nothing to do with me? I delved into the book with all the enthusiasm of a slug.
But then I met Scout.
Okay, okay, I thought. Maybe it won’t be such a stuffy book after all. I guess I can give it a chance. She seems funny enough.
The more I read, the more I began to think. Maycomb, the book’s fictional town, hit a bit close to the cuff. I thought I recognized a few things…a description here, a voice there. Hmmm. Maybe there’s more to this than I realized, I thought.
As I finished the book, I tried to wrap my barely pubescent mind around what I’d just read. I’d lived a pretty sheltered life. I hadn’t really given much thought to Black History or the Civil Rights Movement or anything else, save for the brief paragraphs mentioned in my history textbooks. So why was this story so different? What made it stand out to me?
In a word, character. I fell right in line with Scout as soon as I met her. She admired her father much in the way that I admired my own. She lived in a town just like mine. And while I had a brother and a sister, rather than a brother and a male cousin, we got into trouble together all the same. So, for me, it was this kindred spirit that I found in her that brought these fuzzy themes of "equality to all" into focus.
As is the case with most things in life, time and experience are the best educators. As I grew older, I moved away from my sheltered childhood and began to confront the cruel reality that is the world. As I think back now, I remember that summer when To Kill A Mockingbird was on the required reading list. It was the first time I recall ever peeking over the rim of my rose-colored glasses, my first time experiencing the hatred, the fear, and the sorrow of days I never knew.
Two years ago I participated in re-reading this classic with the Red Clay Readers, a book club at www.al.com. I halfway expected to be disappointed, as reading a book for the second time usually isn’t nearly as enjoyable as a first read for me. However, in this case, I was wrong. Maybe it’s because TKAM has so many elements that seem to “grow” along with the reader. For instance, one of the discussions we held during our book club was the treatment of Boo Radley, not only by the townspeople, but by the children and even his own family. Something that I had completely overlooked at fifteen now stood out to me, something new stepping up to grab my conscience and force me to think, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable the topic.
And perhaps that’s why TKAM has and continues to endure for all these years. It speaks to the world, it speaks to the mind, but most importantly it speaks to the soul.
- Worth the Trip
What can you say about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? It’s quite possibly the best book ever written in and about the American South. A beautifully woven tale that takes into account the political and racial issues that have plagued places like South Alabama for decades, and offers up a timeless perspective—the perspective of a child, Scout Finch—as she, and the world around her, deals with those age old questions of class and ethnicity.
To Kill a Mockingbird gives us strong archetypal figures—the irreconcilably broken and wounded in Boo Radley; the quiet hero in Atticus Finch; and the child coming of age in Scout herself. We all know protective older brothers like Jem, loving mother figures like Ms. Maudie and Calpurnia, and even outcasts that want so badly to make good, no matter the cost, like the Ewells. The reason so many folks love this book is simple—they identify with it. It doesn’t really matter if you grew up in South Alabama during the depression or if you live in Manhattan right now, there are still difficult social issues to navigate, still opinions to deal with, still stereotypes that aren’t as cut and dried as maybe we all wish they could be. Harper Lee tells that story: one as old as the human race, and she helps the reader to understand every side of it. Harper Lee does, in fact, a fine job helping her audience do what Atticus Finch tells Scout she should when he advises his daughter that she will understand others better if she can learn to, “Climb into (his) skin and walk around in it.”
There’s a good chance you’ve read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird before. (One survey says it is ranked only second to the Bible in American reading.) If you haven’t, you should. I can almost guarantee you’ll find something of yourself in the book’s young protagonist, Scout Finch. You may just be amazed at all of the lessons there for the gleaning and almost expertly pointed out by the little girl of just six when the story begins.
If you’ve read Mockingbird before, I urge you to read it again. There are very few books out there that are better the second (and third, and fourth) time around; this is one of them. I’ve been through this book at least six times now, and every single time I find something new, I discover something different—something I completely overlooked before that makes an impression.
I am choosy when it comes to the books on my shelves. If I’m going to spend my hard-earned money on a book, it’s going to be something that’s worthy of keeping, displaying, and pulling down from the shelf every now and again for another round—or it’s off to a used book dealer for someone else to enjoy. To have staying power in my space, it’s got to be something that keeps offering me more every time I read it. To Kill a Mockingbird is that kind of book, and its characters seem nothing less than old friends. Go ahead, introduce yourself to the good folks of Maycomb, AL; or—if you’ve visited before—stop back in and stay awhile. It’s definitely worth the trip.
- Why You Should Revisit To Kill a Mockingbird
If you went to school in the United States, especially the South, you likely read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee—probably in middle school or high school. You may have loved it—maybe you got wrapped up in the mystery of Boo Radley, you were in awe of the oratory skills and unwavering morality of Atticus Finch, and you wanted to be best friends with Scout and Jem. Or maybe you hated it. Or perhaps you’re not even sure, because you just pretended to read it. We all had different experiences in school, and different relationships with required reading.
My point is this—regardless of your initial experience with Lee’s seminal novel, it’s worth picking it up and giving it another go.
To Kill a Mockingbird begins in 1933, in the poor, downtrodden Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama—a town deeply affected by the Great Depression. The novel is told from the perspective of Scout Finch, who is looking back on her childhood, her adventures with her brother, and the lessons she learned from her father.
Scout proves to be a funny, honest and relatable narrator. She is flawed but she learns from her mistakes. She’s hot-headed but also kind. And like any good protagonist, she grows throughout the novel. She comes to see her father as a hero—instead of an old man who “can’t do anything.” She learns the exceptional value of empathy, that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…”
But, to me, the true value of To Kill a Mockingbird is in its comparisons and the lessons we learn from them—particularly regarding gender norms. I grew up with Scout as a role model, mimicking her rebellion against femininity and traditional gender roles.
Jem and Scout are treated very differently throughout the book. We come to understand that boys were treated as men and given responsibility, they were expected to do things. Girls were expected to be inactive and visually appealing. Scout’s Aunt Alexandria illustrates the gender norms of the day: “Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants.” Scout was ahead of her time in her rebellion against such norms.
To Kill a Mockingbird was published on July 11, 1960—although it’s considered classic and widely read and beloved, Lee hasn’t published another book since. Almost exactly 55 years later, on July 14, 2015, Go Set a Watchman will be released. I for one am through the roof with excitement—I can’t wait to catch up with Scout, Jem and Atticus, to see if the lessons that Scout learned influenced her journey into adulthood, and if she went on breaking rules and questioning gender norms, customs and expectations.
- Review of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
As a native of Monroeville, Alabama, I am quite familiar with To Kill a Mockingbird. It was required reading when I was in high school. I’ve seen the play twice, and even had friends that participated in the play. I have seen the movie and read the book more than once. Although it was required reading, I didn’t approach reading this particular book that way. I wanted to read To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, it was more than a celebrated piece of classic literature. This is a piece of heritage and history of where I grew up and still presently live. I’m anxiously waiting for when my children are old enough to read it, and I hope it means as much to them as it does to me.
If you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, you have probably heard of it. In fact, To Kill a Mockingbird has made cameo appearances in many movies and TV shows, such as Private Practice and books, like If I Stay. Several middle and high schools across the United States still use To Kill a Mockingbird as a reading requirement, despite the fact that it has appeared on the banned book list.
To Kill a Mockingbird addresses the issues of racial prejudice and class prejudice in the South. The book was written in the 1950s, and published in 1960. However, the book is set in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, in a small southern town called Maycomb, Alabama. To Kill a Mockingbird also teaches that you shouldn’t make assumptions about someone before you get to know them. One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” These words are spoken by Atticus Finch, father of the main character, Scout.
Let’s talk about the characters. To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, who is just a child. One of my favorite things about To Kill a Mockingbird has always been the fact that there were so many different points of view that this story could be told from, such as Jem, Scout’s older brother, or Atticus, the humble and heroic lawyer and father. But Harper Lee chose to tell the story from young Scout’s perspective. In my opinion, experiencing the book through Scout’s eyes, with her innocence and naiveté of the world around her, really adds a lot of depth to the story. Honestly, I’m not sure that To Kill a Mockingbird would have been quite as meaningful if it were narrated by Jem or Atticus.
This brings us to Jem and Atticus. Jem, or Jeremy Atticus Finch, is Scout’s older brother. Although To Kill a Mockingbird is told from Scout’s perspective, Jem is actively present throughout most of the story. Atticus is the widowed father of Scout and Jem. He is a lawyer in Maycomb, and the way Scout tells it, an all-around good man. Atticus has a lot of wisdom, and he tries to convey that wisdom onto Jem and Scout throughout the book.
Other key characters in To Kill a Mockingbird include: Calpurnia, who takes care of the Finch children; Sherriff Tate; Dill Harris, the little boy from out of town who visits his aunts and plays with Scout and Jem during summer breaks; Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of a violent crime and defended by Atticus; Bob Ewell, the bully of the story; Mayella Ewell, a poor girl in a bad situation; and Boo Radley, the silent hero.
I can’t really say that I have one particular favorite character out of To Kill a Mockingbird. Different strengths of various characters appeal to me, thus making me love many of them. I love Scout’s innocence, and how with the story being narrated through her eyes, you get to see people how she sees them. I like how Dill is so inquisitive and I like Jem’s stubbornness. I like that Atticus is wise and how, more than anything, he tries to teach his children to always look for the good in people. Atticus is just and fair, even when he’s convinced one of his own children is guilty. And Boo Radley, the town recluse. Yes, he seems scary in the beginning, but as most silent heroes are, he’s just misunderstood.
I also love the character development exhibited in this book, most importantly that of Jem and Scout. By the end of the story, I was amazed at how much wisdom young Scout had gained.
I will never forget how I felt after reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. Of course, once I started reading I didn’t want to put the book down, so I finished it long before we were through reading it in class. I felt like I knew a secret that no one else in my class knew yet. Sure, other people had read this book before me and many other people connected with it. However, this was the first book that I had truly felt a connection with, and that was saying a lot. I started reading at an early age and read many, many books before I finally read To Kill a Mockingbird.
I know there are many people that re-read To Kill a Mockingbird every year, and though I wish I was, I am not one of those people. In fact, I just re-read it recently for the first time in several years. I still feel the same way about this book as I did over 15 years ago, when I read it for the very first time.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic, not because of how long ago it was written, but in the sense that its message is timeless. The reader experiences humanity, the good, bad and ugly sides of it, all through the eyes of an innocent child. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books that stays with you, long after you’ve read the very last page.