To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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[amazon_link asins=’0446310786′ template=’RightAlignSingleImage’ store=’rebereid06-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’debcb40e-17f3-11e7-ba88-d5e79d61f198′]Harper Lee wrote one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and it won the Pulitzer prize in 1961. Its themes still resonate with readers and her novel has become a part of our culture. That, I believe, is success.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee almost perfectly captures the main challenge of growing up: realizing human nature, both good and bad.

(I say “almost” perfect because I am sure there are faults in the novel, but I love this novel so much that I don’t want to search for them.)

To Kill a Mockingbird follows Scout Finch from age 6 to age 9 in the midst of the Great Depression in rural Alabama.  Scout is a tomboy in overalls but is expected to be a little lady. She sees many opposites in the people around her: not as poor versus very poor, boy versus girl, old town residents versus newcomers, drunk versus sober, kind versus mean, and, underscoring it all, black versus white.

And yet, in her eight-year-old wisdom, Scout observes:

Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. (chapter 23)

When Scout and her older brother are given air rifles for Christmas, they are told they can shoot at anything but mockingbirds:

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. (chapter 10)

Scout learns by experience that people often disregard such obvious advice in terms of how they treat each other.  To Kill a Mockingbird is honest yet beautiful examination of how we all look at each other. Why do people judge and hurt those who “don’t do one thing” to harm the world around us? Why do people bring heartache on the helpless? Why are people prejudiced?

Through Scout’s young eyes, I was reminded of how important it is for me to avoid judging others “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” She also helped me see what it means to be a neighbor.

Why I Reread This

I decided to reread Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel for two reasons. I recently read a review by SmallWorld Reads. Before that, however, I read a best-selling author compare his writing to Harper Lee’s and critique the fact that she had only written one book. I had been shocked that he compared his writing to hers and I felt the need to reread To Kill a Mockingbird to see if my shock was justified: Is Harper Lee’s writing and story that good? Yes, I believe it is. Lee’s writing is realistic and powerful, and the themes are pertinent and timeless to everyone at every time.

As it has been said before, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee has really said everything that needs to be said. I say, if she didn’t write any other novel, that is her business. Writing “only” one book doesn’t make that book any less powerful or her skill any less impressive.

I plan on rereading it again. And then again. It’s that good.

A Classic

I heard it suggested that a classic is something that has become a part of our culture. Hence, something like Don Quixote is a classic (even if you haven’t read it) because, for example, vocabulary (quixotic) entered our language as a result of the characters and story.

I think To Kill a Mockingbird has become or is well on its way to being a part of our culture. I think it’s a classic. What do you think?

Also, raise your hand if you read it in high school! I thought everyone did, and I think it is a great novel for young adults. But my husband says he didn’t read it in high school because he was in the “advanced” English course. I think that’s sad! There are plenty of “advanced” things in To Kill a Mockingbird such classes could have covered! Don’t you think so?

Reviewed on July 31, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I love, love, love To Kill a Mockingbird! It is definitely in the top 10 of all books I have ever read. I read it sometime in school, but I can’t remember when. It is absolutely a must read for school-aged children and I will make sure my children read it. I believe that To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic. Few educated people in our country haven’t read it or seen the movie or at least heard of it. I have said that in my Pulitzer reading I won’t reread books that I have already read for the sake of time, but I think I will have to reread this one because it is so dear to me.

  • I think we actually read this in middle school, but I might be wrong. It’s been a really long time, one way or another. I remember being quite indifferent to the book at the time, but again, I probably read it when I was 12 or 13 and in the period of my life where I wasn’t reading anything for fun. Bad times, haha. Anyway, I should probably go back and reread it at some point.

  • My husband, who was a very poor student, still remembers reading this book in high school. It’s his all time favorite book. I didn’t read it in high school (advanced English and all that) and I still have not read it. It’s crazy that my hubby who hates to read has recommended a book to me that I have not read after 10 years of marriage. Shame on me.

  • I read this book in high school and didn’t enjoy it much, but I am certain it’s because I hated the class I was reading it for, not because the book wasn’t good. I distinctly remember raising my hand and commenting that I thought the mockingbird could be a symbol for Tom Robinson, and having the rest of the class think that was just too advanced. Good grief 🙂

  • I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird (no need to in high school), but that will change soon. I have it on my TBR-pile now after having read so many great things about it on many blogs over the past months. I am looking forward to it a huge lot!

  • @Myrthe: I’d be interested to hear what you think of it!

    @ak: yes, I definitely think it’s worthy of a reread. And you’re right, even those that haven’t read it have heard of it!

    @Amanda: I would think that 12 or 13 would be a bit young. The narrator is 8 years old so it kind of “goes over her head” but there is discussion of a rape in it so it seems the concepts would be better for a little more mature kids. That’s too bad that it came into your life at the wrong time! I’d say give it another try!

    @Heather Johnson: I still don’t understand why advanced classes didn’t read it. I was in advanced English and we did. I think every American high school kid should! There is lots in there to discuss.

    @Kim: Once again, I’m so sorry that it came in your life at the wrong time! Sounds like your teacher was kind of slow if s/he didn’t bring those kind of discussions to the class first! For me, that’s what this book is about: the Mockingbirds (people) around us and how we aren’t so good to them.

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