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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
323 pages

First sentence: When he was thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm broken badly at the elbow.

Reflections: Harper Lee's Pulitzer prizewinner is such a classic; the plot is well-known and there's probably not a person who will read this review that hasn't already read this book.  I read it as a teenager, but I did so on my own and didn't have the benefit of group discussion to enhance my understanding of the themes and issues explored in this work.  Dana over at So many books, so little time re-reads TKAM every year and that got me thinking.  Along comes Maggie Reads' Southern Reading Challenge, and I had an excuse to bring this one out from the dusty shelves.

Je ne regrette rien.  What a powerful book.  I immediately became absorbed in the main characters -- Jem, Scout, Atticus, and Calpurnia -- as well as some of the townspeople and neighbors.  I fell easily into the tales of carefree childhood summers, pretend play, and "spooky" reclusive neighbors.  I could feel the warm summer evenings and the year-round temperate Alabama climate.  But then, wham!, I was hit with the small-mindedness, hatred, and racism:
"Cry about the simple hell people give other people--without even thinking.  Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people, too." (p. 229)

Through brilliant prose, Harper Lee vividly tells the story of a black man on trial for raping a white woman, Atticus' inner strength and determination, the injustice done to the defendant, the varying reactions of the townspeople, and the subsequent events in which justice is finally served.  I'd forgotten how the book got its title, and when I read this part of the book, I found it so apt:
"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy ... they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.  That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (p. 103)

If you haven't read this book, you should.  And if you have, you should re-read it -- you'll learn something new every time.
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
28 / 50

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
10,398 / 15,000


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 14th, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
I believe it's been 19 years since I've read this book. It's definitely time for a re-read. Thanks for inspiring me...again! =)
Jun. 15th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
Oops, that was me in the comment on the Mandela book -- I can't make the "open id" feature work!

This is one of my favorite books ever. I reread it every couple years. I'm so glad you loved it.

Dewey (from the Summer Reading Challenge group)

Jun. 16th, 2007 02:25 pm (UTC)
This was a wonderful review and I hope to use it to spark a discussion! You will get all the credit of course! :D

maggie reads
Nov. 9th, 2009 12:40 pm (UTC)
Your blog made me think about the title again and I did some research online to find out more. Opinions vary but the most sensible interpretation I found was on a site called Shmoop.
Basically, it discusses the title of To Kill a Mockingbird and the concept that killing mockingbirds is associated with sin (as is mentioned above as well). But more than that it is the pointlessness of the violence and the cruelty that is emphasized. The vagueness of the title makes the reader wonder why would anyone want to kill a mockingbird in the first place. This neatly leads into the question of violence and whether it can be condoned or should be punished
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )