Literary Lens: “To Kill a Mockingbird”

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“To Kill A Mockingbird” is a classic. Here, Sarah Gibson argues against underestimating Harper Lee’s novel.


This past weekend, I went to the Resident Ensemble Players’ (REP) performance of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and it was so moving and so close to the story of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel that I decided to review the book this week.

I feel like sometimes, people underestimate “To Kill A Mockingbird” for a variety of reasons—being forced to read it in high school turns some people off, others are bothered by the language and I’m certain many people think it is overhyped.

However, I disagree with all of these concerns. I think we should all read the novel, so we might as well read it in high school. The language, while it does get offensive, is necessary because the book is a product of its time, and that was sadly how things were then. And in terms of it being talked up too much? Impossible.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is a tremendous novel that accurately sums up not only the time period in which it is set—the 1930s—but also how it feels to be a child. For those who don’t know, the story is told from the perspective of Scout, a woman reflecting on a racially charged story from one summer of her childhood.

One of the aspects the novel captures best is Scout’s innocence and her growing understanding of the world around her, aided by her older brother, Jem, and her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch.

Scout and Jem, to an extent, struggle with the concept that there is prejudice and danger for other races in their southern home. When their father represents Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman, the town is in an uproar, and Scout attempts to comprehend the weight of her father’s actions.

While Scout and Jem are both compassionate, albeit wild, Atticus is a truly special character. He is so morally sound, and throughout the novel he offers wonderful and touching moments of advice and wisdom to his children. He struggles immensely with how the town views him when he represents Robinson, and he struggles with being a single father for Scout and Jem.

This novel has been a hot topic for discussion lately—not because of the fabulous REP production, but because Lee released her manuscript for the novel’s prequel before her death last month. The new book, “Go Set A Watchman,” paints Atticus in a completely different light, which disturbed some fans.

To me, Atticus Finch will always be the outstanding character he is in “To Kill A Mockingbird.” His attitude and courage is unrivaled, and he truly creates a wonderful role model; not only in the way he stands up for his beliefs, but for how he treats everyone around him, especially his children.

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