Review: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

When I started reading To Kill A Mockingbird last week, a couple of the jokes and references from the Inaugural UTS Law Revue (in 2010)  suddenly made sense. And whenever I read a scene or dialogue with Atticus, all I can imagine in my head is the Law student who acted as Atticus in the UTS Law Revue (Southern accent and all).

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. – Atticus Finch.

Despite the Southern “accents” in the language, I found TKAM surprisingly accessible – and I personally hate novels such as Huckleberry Finn and Wuthering Heights where characters become incomprehensible because of the use of “accents”. The ideas are not particularly complicated in TKAM and I enjoyed the child-like perspective of Scout’s narration. Unlike other texts where I have often become annoyed by the sheer ignorance or naivete of the child narrator, TKAM managed a working balance of child-like innocence and mature reflection.

I didn’t find myself loathing any of the characters, except for Mayella Ewell and the injustice which she brings upon Tom Robinson, and Bob Ewell. However, even then, I could not help but sympathise with her plight – there is definitely the issue of physical abuse (even sexual) by Bob Ewell and the severe alienation which Mayella suffers, not only within her family (her siblings are of no help), but within the Maycomb society. Regarded as the white trash, she has never known what a “friend” is and what Lee portrays is essentially a wholly pathetic “villain”.

Is then, the only true villian, Bob Ewell?

I wouldn’t like to think so. My interpretation is that Lee positions us to see that the prejudice of the community is the true villainy within Maycomb – evil is not embodied by any one character, but by the entire community, who fails to uphold justice and truth in the face of entrenched racism. If Bob Ewell is truly the “villain” and he is slain at the end of TKAM, then is justice restored and evil vanquished? Hardly.

There’s a certain depressing realism, which Jem arrives at, and which is commented upon by Atticus during the court case which he knows he cannot win. However, I really applaud the fact that there is also a sense of saved innocence, of optimism in Scout’s perspective.

Related Text Potential:

Standard English: Module C: Into the World

Here are a few points to think about:

  • Which characters and events lead to Scout and Jem’s growing understanding of the world around them?
  • What happens to Jem as a result of his maturation and observation of the Tom Robinson trial?
  • What does TKAM say about lost innocence?
  • What do Jem and Scout learn about courage, injustice and societal conventions?

Preliminary Areas of Study or Modules:

  • Discovery
  • Prejudice
  • Conflict
  • Telling the Truth
  • Text and Context

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