Saturday, October 17, 2009

To Kill A Mockingbird - a review

i must say that i like the book. so you can expect the review from me to be a positive one, unlike some of the books that i've reviewed before.

the story is told from a little girl's point of view - Jean Louise Finch, or affectionately known as Scout, the tomboyish daughter of the lawyer in Maycomb, Atticus Finch. what makes this novel appealing is the fact that Harper portrays Atticus Finch as a serious and wise erudite who talks in intellectual English , which rubs on the speech and mannerism of his children. in the novel, it is Atticus who is portrayed as the good man or the "saviour" of the town - a highly respectable man who is educated and yet polite to everybody and who is concerned with equality and justice that in the end he is blind to the facts that Jem is not responsible for the killing of Bob Ewell and is willing to have his son tried -in the name of justice.

the setting is in Maycomb, a small town in the south, in the 30s, after the Depression Era. being the daughter of a prominent lawyer of a respectable family lends Scout the credibility in telling the story as it is - the close-knit neighbourhood with its residents' idiosyncrasies, tabooes and prejudice.

in the beginning the reader is told of the story of Boo Radley being kept in the Radley's house, which both fascinates and scares the children. this leads Scout, her brother Jem and friend Dill to think of exploits, daring each other to go into the compound of the Radleys'. but towards the middle of the story, Boo Radley isn't mentioned anymore and one wonders if Harper is saving him for last, because in telling stories, nothing is ever written by accident (that's why Rushdie took 5 years to write one of his novels).

harper then expertly manoeveurs the storytelling into presenting the neighbours - the town's gossip Miss Crenshaw, Miss Maudie, who loves baking and always has a cake for the children as well as gardening. she is the one responsible for telling the children how their father was like in his youth, thus elevating their high regards for him.

through the portrayal of Scout and Jem, we see the conflicts faced by them as children of a noted lawyer - to defend the father by involving in fights, or to hold their heads high as to not embarrass their father. this is even evident in Scout, as a tomboy she receives much pressure to become a lady from her auntie alexandra who accuses atticus finch of not raising his children properly. before their aunt decides to stay with them, Calpurnia, the black american helper, helps to raise them and teaches them how to read. thus, we see the children having a few mother figures, but only one father figure, the father whom they are proud of and really respect. although, i must admit that by having the children address the father by his first name, Harper succeeds in creating an interest in the reader.

the bigger issue being discussed is the issue of racism - especially so in the south. the black Christians have separate churches, just as they have separate seats in court, and uses pidginised English when talking among themselves, as noted by Scout. later, when Atticus is appointed as attorney to Tom Robbinson, the black american who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell. before the trial, the children are subjected to jeers by their school friends who accuse their father of being "nigger-lover". although the Ewells are known as the uneducated and poor, and although facts have been established that tom did not rape her, the jury decided to charge him guilty because of his skin colour:

"Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robbinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed" (Harper 266).

Harper uses Scout to bring to the readers' attention of how curious and odd a person's perception or prejudice is. Scout tells Jem of how Miss Gates (their teacher) can condemn Hitler's hatred towards Jews and yet she is still prejudiced about the blacks : "... how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home -?" (Harper 272).

just as i suspected, Harper saves Boo Radley for last. it is Boo Radley who saves the children from being killed by Bob Ewell.

and so, why the title?

when Atticus presents the children with rifles for their Christmas gifts, he tells them "shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (Harper 99). metaphorically, a mockingbird refers to good honest people. in this story, the mockingbird is epitomised by Tom Robinson, who is falsely and unjustly accused.

a well-planned, well-constructed, well-written novel.

thumbs up.

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