In preparation for the newly released and controversial novel Go Set a Watchman, I read To Kill a Mockingbird – for the third time. With each read, I enjoy the story more. I have to admit, I did not appreciate the story in grade 10 english class, but as an adult I love this book and will likely reread it again. It is a book that everyone should read – at least once!
It tells the tale of Scout and Jem Finch, children being raised by their father in Maycomb County, Alabama. The Finch family were longstanding citizens of Maycomb and Scout ran with her brother, like a tomboy to the dismay of her proper aunt. Although the children had much freedom to play, they were also learning the cruelties of the world though the previous loss of their young mother, stories about their reclusive neighbour, a cranky old lady that yelled at them and the inequities they witnessed with poor children at their school. They also learned kindness and respect from the poor folks who paid their father with homegrown food, the neighbours who helped when the house across the street burned down and with little treats left in the knothole of a tree by a mysterious benefactor.
Their idle and innocent days came to an end while their father, Atticus, defended a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Although it seemed like their father would be successful in this case, the children learned that life was not always fair and that in those days, being black was as good as being guilty in a case against a white woman. Atticus defended the case valiantly teaching the children about respect and considering that:
“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”
To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful coming of age story. While the language can be shocking – it is representative of a time in history where inequality and discrimination was accepted by many. The story should be read and understood to make sure that we do not repeat this part of history.
This novel was first published in 1960 and has sold more than 30 million copies in more than 40 languages. It has been on school reading lists for many years – I read it and both of my high school boys have read it as part of the curriculum. It is such a great book and Atticus is such a strong, defender of his client that I am almost hesitant to read Go Set a Watchman which has so much controversy surrounding it. Nevertheless this sequel is next on my list.