Most authors provide lessons sugar-coated with stories of unrealistic and non-relevant plots and twists. To Kill a Mockingbird deeply explores real life problems while simultaneously teaching its readers valuable life lessons. As a classic literature enthusiast, it’s truly disappointing that To Kill a Mockingbird is not a part of the ‘Guides to the classics’ series. Harper Lee’s richly textured novel cleverly utilises characterisation and language to teach readers many moral and ethical lessons. This novel is about the perspective of race and justice in the Depression-era South-Eastern US State of Alabama through the eyes of an innocent young girl named Jean Louise (Scout) Finch. Scout alongside her older brother Jeremy (Jem) Finch are raised by their widowed Father Atticus Finch, who taught meaningful life lessons throughout the novel; some of which include ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, ‘Fight with your head not your fists’ and ‘stand up for what you believe in’. Atticus, who is a prominent lawyer within Maycomb taught his children one of the utter most aspects he uses daily within his job and outside of his work, to never judge another until you understand their situation.
Atticus raises his children to be empathetic and just, sharing his experiences to educate Scout and Jem about what’s wrong and right. One of the most outspoken lessons portrayed in this novel is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, meaning that one should not prejudice the worth or value of a person by only their appearance. This is exemplified in a line spoken by Atticus when conversing with Scout, “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” (p. 33). This line demonstrates the importance of viewing the world from the perspective of others before passing judgement thus positively affecting interactions with others. Towards the end of the novel, Scout states ‘Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them’ (p. 308). This evidently demonstrates that the protagonist has learnt and developed throughout the novel, exemplifying the lessons taught to the readers. This lesson, I believe needs to be taught as today’s society focuses specifically on the appearance of others and themselves, not many focusing on people’s true identities.
Another lesson the novel teaches its readers is that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’, which is utilised throughout the novel to reduce or renounce wrongful behaviour as a reaction to another individual’s transgression. Atticus is quoted in the novel explaining how fighting with your head and not your fists is the best action to take when others approach a more aggressive route, “Try fighting with your head for a change…” (p. 84). This is the response to ‘ugly talk’ that is thought to have spread due to Atticus taking of Tom Robinson’s case, who is one of the towns coloured residents being charged over the ‘rape’ of Mayella Ewell. This lecture about prejudice was not only important but necessary as during the 1930s, the brutalities of white-race prejudice towards African Americans preserved even after freedom was won by the slaves in the 1870s. However, today the white-race prejudice towards coloured people is frowned upon, with penalties/consequences in place.
It’s not always easy to differ from the popular opinions or beliefs placed upon individual minds by society, like the 1930’s societal belief ‘blacks are innately intellectually and culturally inferior to whites’ that differs from today’s belief and I observe everyday around me, ‘Everyone is equal, regardless of race, gender or culture’. Stand up for what you believe in, is another lesson within Lee’s novel. Atticus states after being questioned by Scout why he is willing to continue on with the case if he already knows the verdict “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this country in the legislator, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something… because I could never ask you to mind me again” (p. 83). Atticus expresses his thoughts that lead to his actions in taking on Tom Robinson’s case, primarily, that if he did not take on the case, then he would have been going against who he was as a person and his values, attitudes and beliefs. Furthermore, in not taking the case, he would be contradicting every lesson he taught to his children.
Harper Lee’s award-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird cleverly exhibits many moral and ethical lessons, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, ‘Fight with your head not your fists’ and ‘stand up for what you believe in’ being some discussed. Due to these life lessons portrayed thoroughly and thoughtfully in this novel, I believe it must be granted access into the ‘Guides to the classics’ series.