To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
I love this book. I’m not alone in this adoration though. In fact, I think this book has pretty much been deemed the best book of the twentieth century.
Scout, the narrator, and her older brother Jem are the children of Atticus Finch. Their mother died years ago, so they’ve been raised by Atticus and by Calpurnia, the black maid. Scout and Jem are generally carefree children living in Maycomb, Alabama during the Depression. They spend their summers adventuring with their friend Dill and trying to get Boo Radley, the neighborhood recluse, to come out of his house. Things change, though, when Atticus, an attorney, agrees to defend a black man charged with raping a white woman.
There is nary a misstep in this book. The characters are unbelievably well written and fleshed out. Lee slowly creates this town full of people with, what at first seem to be, random tidbits. It all builds and comes together in several climatic scenes. As an attorney , I particularly appreciate the portrayal of Atticus and the realistic courtroom scenes. Here’s a line from his closing statement at the trial:
The witnesses for the state.have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption-the evil assumption-that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber. Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men cannot be trusted around women, black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.
While I read this book as a child in school like most people, I think adults should read or reread this book at regular intervals. I appreciated the writing and the themes and the characters so much more this time around, and I’ll probably appreciate them more as I get older. Such a book is truly a classic.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee [rating:5]