Award winning, American classic ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, by Harper Lee, is a must read book in our modern day society. First published in 1960, the book has sold over 40 million copies and is still printed worldwide. I’m sure the majority of people studied this novel when they were in high school and it is still a major book study in english curriculums today, but why? Harper Lee’s novel might appear to be a boring school reading with ethical lessons, but whilst entertaining, she intertwines universal themes and lessons through the story line like a wind weaving through trees leaving its mark.
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ set in 1936 at a typical American country town, Maycomb, Alabama, is narrated by a grown woman called Scout, reflecting on her 8 year old childhood past. This perspective on the stories events illustrates the racial issues from a unique point of view, with an honest representation. Her father, Atticus Finch, an established lawyer, is characterised through the novel as a moral spokesperson for Scout and her older brother Jem, where they learn the significant lessons of respect and empathy. After an event at school that leaves Scout in a mood, Atticus tells her, “You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” “Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Scout then learns that before judging someone she must respect their life conditions and be empathetic. Empathy is a key lesson for peoples lives no matter when or where they live, today empathy helps us to respond appropriately and understand everyone’s situations so our society can function fairly. Homeless people are a stand out example of when empathy comes into play today, some empathetic people will walk past a homeless man and offer some help or a few dollars, whereas the cruel, selfish people will complain, not knowing their full story. Imagine if we had a world full of empathetic people? But because we don’t ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a novel worth the read.
Later on in the story Atticus takes on a case where a black man, Tom Robinson, is accused of rape. This act has caused an uproar of hatred and mocking towards the Finches by using terms such as “nigger-lover”, because they’re defending a black man. Further on, mockingbirds become a reoccurring motif throughout the story. The Finch’s neighbour, Miss Maudie, is asked by Scout why Atticus said “Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” and she replies saying “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Boo and Tom are the prevalent metaphors for mockingbirds because they do nothing wrong and don’t bother anyone. This lesson demonstrates to us, in our society that we shouldn’t mistreat people who don’t harm anyone, even if they are different to us, we must treat them with respect. Now ask yourself, why is ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ a worthy text in todays society? The teachings from Harper Lee will always be relevant in a society and will shape our world into a better place.
Did you hear about the recent shooting in the Mosque at Christchurch? The devastating attack on Friday the 15th of March where an Australian who’s prejudice against Muslims killed 50 Muslims and left 50 injured. For no reason at all he decided to harm innocent people who did nothing but minded their own business – remind you of something? The Muslims are mockingbirds. If you don’t think that the moral themes from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ resonate to a modern audience, rethink. Throughout the court case of Tom Robinson, where he has been wrongly accused, prejudice against the coloured people is strongly shown. ‘I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!’. Is what Mr Ewell shouted whilst testifying against Tom, insulting him by using the term “nigger”. The court continues in session with the Ewell’s and Mr Gilmer on the upper hand. Though the fight for Tom’s innocence was tough, there was still a slight chance of hope but of course, the biased jury still pronounced him guilty.
The theme of inequality in the novel reaches its highest point at this moment, Tom Robinson was never guilty, would never harm a fly but because of the mistreating white men, “Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win”. Miss Maudie stated this after the trial during morning tea with Dill, Scout and Jem. Inequality is a major theme in the book, Harper Lee highlights the unacceptable treating of coloured people and outcasts in a society. “Of rare excellence … a novel of strong contemporary national significance.” This statement was said by the Chicago Tribune, they are also discussing the fact that the strong themes of prejudice and inequality are national, significant and need to be prevented in all societies whenever. Why have we still not learnt and evolved from our mistakes in the past? Some issues back in the 1930’s are still present today in our society.