To Kill a Mockingbird (To Kill a Mockingbird, #1)by Published 23 May 2006
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|Publisher||Harper Perennial Modern Classics|
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The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
To Kill a Mockingbird (To Kill a Mockingbird, #1) Reviews
English (To Kill a Mockingbird) / Italiano
«When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow»Alabama. Early 1930s. The Great Depression. Maycomb, an imaginary town. Tom Robinson (black), falsely accused rapist. Atticus (white), lawyer instructed to represent him. Scout and Jem (white), sons of Atticus. Dill (white), friend of Jem and Scout. Calpurnia (black), maid from Atticus house. Arthur "Boo" Radley (white), mysterious neighbour. Mayella Ewell (white), victim of a sexual assault. Bob Ewell (white), father of Mayella. Take all the elements listed above, add racism, ignorance, humanity, mix them up and you get the masterpiece of Harper Lee.Sponsored even by the former president of USA Barack Obama, the message of the novel gets loud and clear: do the right thing, bravely, at all costs.Vote: 9
«Jem, mio fratello, aveva quasi tredici anni all’epoca in cui si ruppe malamente il gomito sinistro»Alabama. Inizio anni 30. Grande depressione. Maycomb, cittadina immaginaria. Tom Robinson, nero, accusato ingiustamente di stupro. Atticus, bianco, avvocato incaricato di difenderlo. Scout e Jem, bianchi, figli di Atticus. Dill, bianco, amico di Jem e Scout. Calpurnia, nera, domestica al servizio di Atticus. Arthur "Boo" Radley, misterioso vicino di casa. Mayella Ewell, bianca, vittima di stupro. Bob Ewell, bianco, padre di Mayella. Prendete tutti gli elementi elencati, aggiungete il razzismo di alcuni, l'ignoranza di altri, l'umanità di altri ancora, mescolate tutto ed otterrete il capolavoro di Harper Lee.Sponsorizzato finanche dall' ex-presidente degli USA Barack Obama, il messaggio del romanzo arriva forte e chiaro: fai la cosa giusta, a qualunque costo, con coraggio.Voto: 9
6.0 stars. I know I am risking a serious “FILM AT 11” moment and a club upside the head from Captain Obvious for voicing this, but nabbit dog I still think it needs to be said…TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of the BEST and MOST IMPORTANT American novels ever written. Okay, I said it, and I will wait patiently while you get your DUHs and DERs out of the way and hang your “no shit” signs outside for Inspector Holmes.
Okay, now given the gruntload of reviews/ratings this book has I know I’m not the first person to wag my chin about how amazing it is. Still, I am going to chance coming off like that annoying dingleberry at the tail end of a huge porcelain party because I truly have a pile of love for this book. …(Sorry for taking the metanalogy there just now, but I promise no more poop references for the rest of the review)... So if my review can bring a few more people into the Atticus Finch Fan Club, I will be just flush with happy.
On one level, this book is a fairly straight-forward coming of age story about life in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression. It has a very slice of lifesaver warmth and simplicity to it that I think resonates with a lot of readers. It certainly does with me and I think the adjective “charm” may have been invented to describe the novel.
Despite how easing flowing the narrative is, this book is both extremely and deceptively powerful in its discussion of race, tolerance and human decency. Most importantly, this book shows us by example the courage to stand all up in the grill of injustice and say “Not today, Asshole! Not on my watch.”
That is a lesson that I think we can never be reminded of too often. When bad people do bad things to good people, the rest of us good people need to sack up and be counted regardless of how scary it might be. Easier said then done, I know. But at least that should be the standard to which we strive.
Atticus Fitch is the epitome of that standard. He is the role model to end all role models and what is most impressive is that he comes across as such a REAL person. There is no John Wayne/Jack Bauer/Dirty Harry cavalry charging BSD machismo about him. Just a direct, unflinching, unrelenting willingness to always do what he thinks is right. As Atticus’ daughter Scout puts it so well:
It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.I was to make something crystal before going on because it is an important part of my love of this story. Notwithstanding this book's powerful, powerful moral message, it never once…ever…comes off as preachy or heavy handed. There is no lecture to be given here. The only sermon we are privy to is the example of Atticus Finch and the simple yet unwavering strength and quiet decency of the man. Even when asked by his daughter about the horrendous racism being displayed by the majority of the townsfolk during a critical point in the story, Atticus responds with conviction but without:
"They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."This is a special story. Oh, and as a huge bonus…it is also an absolute joy to read. Lee’s prose is silky smooth and as cool as the other side of the pillow. Read this book. Read it with your children, read it with your spouse, read it by yourself….read it the bigoted assclown that you work with or see around the neighborhood…Just make sure you read it. It is a timeless classic and one of the books that I consider a “life changer.” 6.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!!!
BONUS QUOTE: This is Scout talking to Atticus after getting to know someone she had previously be afraid of:
“ ‘When they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . .’ His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. ‘Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.’ He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”(Emphasis added)
In the course of 5 years, I’ve read this book nearly 17 times. That adds up to reading it once at least every 4 months, on an average. And I still return to this book like a bark seeking a lighthouse in the dark. When I first finished it, I was so overwhelmed by how much I related to it, I read it nearly 8 times before the year ended. By now I’ve memorized almost every scene and I still can’t shake off the feeling that I still have to learn a lot from it. Over the years, I realize that without knowing it, it has become my personal Bible – a beacon to keep me from straying from the path of kindness and compassion, no matter what.
With its baseless cruelty and what Coleridge poetically referred to as motiveless malignity, the world is in need of much motiveless kindness – a rugged determination to keep the world a quiet haven and not the callous, cruel place it constantly aspires to be.
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those rare books that doesn’t give in to the belief that ”deep down, everybody’s actually good.” Not everybody is. And we must still persevere to see things from their perspective, and though we may not justify their ways, we must strive to understand them – though we might not follow them, we must try to be as kind to them as possible. And yet, there comes a time when some people need to be put down – we must follow the call of our conscience then, and yet be kind to them in the process, as much as we can.
Striving to follow this dictum, I have realized how difficult it is to be kind to others when I find I’m right. It is so easy to put down others bluntly, it is so easy to be critical and fair, but so difficult to consider for a moment what the other might be going through. How convenient it is to dismiss the hardships of others and say, “They had it coming!” and unburden our conscience of the probable guilt that perhaps we’ve been a bit too harsh.
How simple it is to stereotype people, classify them neatly into convenient square boxes and systematically deal with them based on those black-or-white prejudices! Robe a prejudice in the opaque, oppressive garment called Common Sense and display boldly the seal of Social Approval and you’ve solved the biggest difficulty of life – knowing how to treat people.
And yet, nothing could be farther than the truth. Rarely are people so simple as they seem. In Wilde’s words, “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” For you never know when a grumpy, rude, racist Mrs. Dubose might be fighting her own monsters or Ewell be, in fact trying to protect the last vestiges of honor he has, or Aunt Alexandra only trying to advocate the least painful way of life. And though we might not agree with any of them, like Atticus, we must see them for their peculiar situations and grant them a little leeway, make a little corner for them too, and yet, stand up for what is right in defiance of them.
It is this tricky rope-walking balance between prejudice and common sense, kindness and firmness, and justice and leeway that spurs me to revisit this little book every time I seem to falter. While I find it difficult to keep my cool in the midst of flagrant injustices and ensuing pain, I strive to strike a balance between giving in to despair and becoming too optimistic; between becoming indifferent, unkind, righteous and being compassionate, considerate. It is what keeps me from becoming paranoid or cynical with the unceasing drone of passivity, callousness, overwhelming prejudice and unyielding customs while still being alive to the pain of those very people I do not necessarily agree with.
In a country like India with its bizarre, incomprehensible equations and sequestrations of religion, class, caste, region, language, race, gender, sexuality and education, it takes a whole load of effort not to blow up one’s mind – people will kill each other over anything and everything. They’ll hate each other, isolate each other and cook up stories amongst themselves and leave it floating in the air. It takes every ounce of my energy not to hate my land and its majority people viciously. Yes, viciously.
But you see, I’ve got so much to learn to survive here – I have to stand up for myself when there will be hordes banging upon my door telling me to shut the hell up. And I’ll have to muster all the courage I have to tell them to go f*** themselves if they think I musn’t transcend the limits set for me. But I also have to learn not to hate them. Even if it sounds silly.
I know for one, Lee – I don’t care if you never wrote another work. I don’t care if Capote helped you write it, as many say. I’m glad somebody wrote this book, and somebody assigned this book as syllabus when I needed it the most. Five years ago, I hadn’t even heard of it. I read it in a single sitting. And then I read it several times over, taking my time, pondering over every page. I still do so. It is my favorite book ever.
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”(p. 20)
I love this book and this idea of reading being like breathing. As Scout did, I read early too, and often. Every night before bed I would read and still do. I saw a Twilight Zone Episode once where the main character loved to read and only wanted to be left alone to do so. After falling asleep in the vault of the bank where he worked, he awoke to a post-disaster world where only he was left. He busily gathered together all the books he wanted to read, all organized and stacked up. Just as he chose one to start with, his glasses fell and he stepped on them trying to find them. It was terrible and I remember feeling horrified that this man would never get to read again! Such a thought had never occurred to me. This semester I had to get glasses myself after suffering migraines from reading. I was so nervous at the eye doctor because the thought of not being able to read was too much for me. Of course, I only needed readers, but when I ran across this quote, I thought about how much like breathing reading is for me.
“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.” (p. 87)
Never say die! Fight the good fight no matter what! I love the anti-defeatist message in this quote. Even though Atticus knows the deck is stacked against him, he tries anyway. He understands that sometimes you have to fight the un-winnable fight just for the chance that you might win. It makes me think that what he’s trying to teach his children is never to give up just because things look dim.
“...before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.” (p. 120)
As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” That’s really all that matters. At the end of the day, when you lay down, you have to know that you did the right things, acted the right way and stayed true to yourself. Again, Atticus understands that the town is talking; he has to explain to his kids why he continues against the tide of popular thought. He sums it up so well here.
“We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.”(p. 320)
I love the sad way this quote sounds. It is clearly the thoughts of a child, for hadn’t Scout just given Boo his dignity as they were walking home? Hadn’t she and Jem given him children to care for and watch over? But she knows too, even from her child’s perspective, that they could never give him anything close to what he had given them—their lives. It just sounds so beautifully sad.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. Print.
With endless books and infinitely more to be written in the future, it is rare occasion that I take the time to reread a novel. As women’s history month is upon us (2019), I have kept revising my monthly lineup to feature books by remarkable women across the spectrum. Yet, none of these nonfiction books pay homage to the writers of the books themselves. Even with memoirs, the prose focuses on the author’s achievements in her chosen field. Last week a goodreads friend and I paid tribute to women authors in a daily literary journal. In one of my friend’s posts, she pointed out that as recently as 1960, the author of the most endearing of American novels had to use a masculinized version of her name in fear of not being published. Nelle Harper Lee of Monroeville, Alabama published To Kill a Mockingbird under her middle name, so only those well read readers are aware of the author’s full name. It is in this regard, that I included Pulitzer and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Nelle Harper Lee in my Women’s History month lineup. It is as auspicious of a time as any to reread one of America’s greatest novels.
When I was in ninth grade English class, I read Harper Lee’s novel for the first time. At age fourteen I was hardly a polished writer and struggled with many of the assignments. Yet, I do remember that the top essay in the class focused on the overarching theme of courage and how Harper Lee showed how each of the characters, major and minor, embodied this trait in the trying times associated with the novel. It was courageous of a southern woman to write a novel with this subject matter prior to the passage of the civil rights act. It is of little wonder to me looking back now that she chose to publish under a gender neutral name. Perhaps, she feared a lynch mob or being outcast in her home town. It was a trying time as the federal government asserted itself against states still grieving from the war between the states and holding out as the last bulwarks of white superiority. Harper Lee exhibited as much courage as the characters in her novel, and rightfully was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her work. As such, being courageous starts from the top and works its way down to each and every character of this timeless work.
In 1930s rural Maycomb, Alabama people were pretty much set in their way of life. Town folk had received an education and worked as lawyers, doctors, bankers, and businessmen. The country folk may or may not have received an education because they had to work the fields and many were illiterate. Even the majority of those educated white folk still saw themselves as superior to blacks, and few, if any, had the audacity to take a black’s word over a white’s even if it were the correct moral thing to do. Yet, the crux of Lee’s novel is a court case threatening to disrupt this way of life, having the town divide along both racial and moral lines, and having each character step into others’ shoes and view the world from another’s perspective. Maycomb at the time embodied many rural American cities, isolated from progress as town set in its ways with few people who were willing to see the world from another perspective. One man was, however, a lawyer named Atticus Finch who is among the most revered fictional characters ever created. Even though this court case should not have been his, his superiors selected Atticus to counsel a black defendant because they realized that he was the one man in Maycomb who had both the ability to empathize and the courage to do so. His neighbor Mrs Maudie Atkinson noted that Atticus was the same man in the court house as he was at home and had nothing to fear. A widower, he instilled these values to his children Jeremy Atticus (Jem) and Jean Louise (Scout) from a young age, passing a strong moral compass onto his children.
In addition to critiquing southern race relations, Lee’s novel has endeared itself to children with the legend of Boo Radley. From the time they were young, Jem, Scout, and their summer friend Dill had courage to go to the Radley house trying to get Boo to come out even though all the other kids said the house was spooked. Atticus told them to put a halt to these childish games and explained Boo Radley’s background to them. The town claimed that Boo Radley was a ghost, but perhaps the reason he did not leave the house is because he did not want to. As the children grew older, Atticus warned them that there would be darker times ahead and they would have to be courageous in the face of what people said to them behind their backs. From the time Scout began school in first grade, she inhibited Atticus’ ability to stand up for what was right. Her teacher Miss Robinson was new to Maycomb and did not understand people’s ways. Scout explained about the Cunninghams, the Ewells, as well as other families at a personal cost to herself. As Scout grew older and was able to step into other people’s’ shoes more, she grew to understand differences between folks; however, she and Jem realized that differences did not make the world distinctly black and white or right and wrong. During an era when children were looked upon as unintelligent, Scout and Jem were wise beyond their years and following in their father’s footsteps.
Harper Lee created strong archetypal characters and had each embody their own courage. Each’s courage allowed Atticus to teach his children a life lesson that would endure for the rest of their lives. The family’s neighbor Mrs. Henry Lafayette DuBose demonstrates courage as she battles a final illness. Third grade teacher Mrs. Gates exhibits courage as she teaches Scout’s class about the rise of Nazism in Germany and th encourages her students to think for themselves about the differences between prejudices at home and abroad. The African American characters all demonstrate strong courage as well. The Finch’s housekeeper Calpurnia is a bridge between the white and black communities of Maycomb and does not hesitate to teach Scout and Jem life lessons as they arise. The Reverend Sykes welcomes Jem and Scout into his congregation as though they were his own and invites them to sit in the colored balcony at time when segregation was still the law. He risked a lynching and knew that the Finch family could possibly be labeled as negro lovers, yet Reverend Sykes played a small role in proving that one’s skin color should not determine whether someone is right or wrong. Of course, as part of the overarching story line, Boo Radley can be viewed as the most courageous character of them all. It is through the courage of an author to create characters who will stand up for what is morally right at a large cost to themselves that she created an award winning novel that was ahead of its time for its era. It is little wonder that the courage of these fictional characters has made the novel as beloved as it is today.
I believe that the courage exhibited by all these characters has made the town of Maycomb, Alabama stand the test of time and remain the timeless classic that it is. Most people can relate to those who have the courage to stand up for what they think is right or to fight against those tougher than them. This character trait has endeared the Finch family to millions of readers and will continue to do so for generations to come. Whenever a person asks what book would you give as a gift or what is the perfect book, To Kill a Mockingbird is my first choice. I find that it is perfect for any time but most appropriate in spring as in addition to courage there is an underlying theme of hope. Harper Lee won the Pulitzer for this timeless classic, and it also won first place in the Great American Read as America’s best novel. Thus I can think of no better way to honor women’s history month than with a timeless book that has and will continue to capture the hearts and minds of all of its readers.
5+ stars/ all-time favorites shelf