“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
What a wonderful book.
That’s what I thought when I finished this famous work. I confess that I was afraid I would think of it as yet another overrated classic everyone pretends to like but now I am so happy I was completely wrong about it.
A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
Because it is written in a child’s perspective it is moving and endearing, which I think wouldn’t happen if it was an adult telling the same story. We watch Jean-Louise Finch grow up and the world around her – a world which is little more than a small town – change as fast as mean people can spread their wickedness to others. What makes it even more special is the ever-present honesty: it curls up in every word with such force I’m lead to think it would turn even the most devious person into an honourable one. Harper Lee is able to write her protagonist’s thoughts in such a way that every injustice stabs at your chest as if it was happening to you; her powerlessness becomes your own. Many writers can do this but not many can do it even when their readers are being bothered by noisy people on the train and take almost two months to read their damn book.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
To Kill a Mockingbird is also a book about more things than it lets us realize at first: more than about racism it is about the importance of education; more than exposing the social inequalities that still pervade our days, it shows how a person who believes in something better can fight against those who fail to recognize what is wrong. And it is also about how children can be so affected by their parents’ behaviour: cowardice breeds cowardice; kindness breeds kindness.
This book also introduced me to one of the most fascinating, intelligent, kind and eloquent characters in the literary world: Atticus Finch. He is now one of the most inspirational characters on my list and also the reason why I ended the book thinking about how wonderful it was is mostly because of this equally wonderful fictional person.
I haven’t been this moved by a book in a long time and I thank Harper Lee, wherever she is, for her talent and her beautiful thoughts.
“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.”
If you haven’t had the pleasure to be in Harper Lee’s world yet, click here: