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Book Review – To Kill a Mocking Bird

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Mocking Bird - Movie Cover
To Kill a Mocking Bird – Movie Starring Gregory Peck

To  Kill a Mocking Bird (1960) is an all time classic by the Author Harper Lee. Immediately on being published, it won the Pulitzer Prize. It is now considered as an all time American Classic. The story has been made into a movie starring Gregory Peck.  The movie has also achieved a cult classic status.The book discusses the themes that were relevant in the Depression era Racism, Poverty, Sexual Frustration and maintaining a moral compass even in the face of difficulty. The Author Harper Lee has brought about her thinking with such clarity that it makes for a compelling read.

The story takes place during the 1930’s in the Great Depression in the fictional town of Maycomb in Alabama.  It focuses on six-year-old Jean Louise Scout Finch who lives with her older brother, Jeremy “Jem” and their widowed father  Atticus Finch who is also a lawyer.

Jem and Scout  become friends with a boy named Dill (Incidentally Dill is based on Harper Lee’s friend Arthur Capote. A movie is also based on him)

The three children are terrified and are yet curious about  their neighbor, the reclusive Arthur “Boo” Radley (In the movie, a very young Robert Duvall plays this role).  The adults of Maycomb are hesitant to talk about Boo, and few of them have seen him. The children start stories based on their imaginations and they start hatching childish plans on getting him out of his house.  As their friendship progresses, the children find that some one leaves them small gifts in a tree near Boo’s home. It is Boo, who is displaying his affection to the children, but he never actually makes an appearance.

Judge Taylor asks Atticus to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman, Mayella Ewell. Atticus agrees to defend Tom, even as the citizens of Maycomb make their displeasure known. The Ewells are particularly harsh towards Atticus.  The school children taunt Jem and Scout for Atticus’s actions, calling him a “nigger-lover”. Scout picks fights with her school friends to fight against the taunts. Atticus also  faces an angry mob, intent on lynching Tom. The situation is defused by  Scout, Jem, and Dill who shame the mob. The mob disperses.

Atticus does not want Jem and Scout to be present during Tom Robinson’s trial.  Since no seat is available on the main floor, so by invitation of the Reverend Sykes, Jem, Scout, and Dill watch from a balcony meant for black people.  Atticus proves in his arguments  that the accusers—Mayella and her father, Bob Ewell are lying.

The truth becomes startlingly clear- Mayella had  made advances towards Tom. Her Father caught her and beat her and the blame is put on Tom.

Despite overwhelming proof that Tom is innocent, the jury convicts Tom. There is a tragedy – Tom is shot dead while trying to escape from prison. Jem’s faith in the judiciary is shaken, as also Atticus’s.

Even though Tom Robinson is convicted, Atticus has destroyed Ewells’s reputation. Ewell vows revenge ( He spits on Atticus during the trial)

Driven by mad rage,  he attacks the defenseless Jem and Scout while they walk home on a dark night after a school event. Jem suffers a broken arm in the struggle, but amid the confusion someone rescues the children and kills Ewell by stabbing him. The mystery man carries Jem home &  Scout realizes that he is Boo Radley.

The town Sheriff Tate arrives and argues with Atticus on whom to charge. Atticus argues that Jem should be charge , while Tate thinks it is Boo. But Tate also puts a moral argument – should Jem (a mere child) or Boo (A Child like Adult)  be charged at all? Atticus eventually accepts the sheriff’s story that Ewell simply fell on his own knife.  Boo asks Scout to walk him home, and after she says goodbye to him at his front door he disappears again.  Scout tries to empathize with Boo and thinks how his life must have been, also regretting the perception she had of Boo.

The movie is loyal to the book and Gregory Peck has enacted the role of his life. There are truly some wonderful moments in the movie when Gregory Peck makes an impassioned plea to the jury to not convict Tom. Right after when the jury convicts Tom anyway, the balcony of black people stand up in respect for Atticus. That scene is sure to give anyone goose bumps. The book should be read because of its egalitarian theme( all humans are equal)

The book is quite ahead of its times. the authour has beautifully depicted the importance of eequality in a very subtle yet impactful manner. the story is as narrated by Scout as she fondly remembers her father’s principals. A Mocking Bird is a gentle bird which sings and tries to please everyone. Boo, the character is similar to a Mocking Bird – a sweet and gentle man, who would never hurt anyone.

Getting to the business end of this review,

Writing Style : 4.7/5 ( Unique American Style)

Story: 4.9/5

Highly recommended!

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About the author

Aniket is a Business Consultant by profession - however his love of books led him to this website, where he posts book reviews and also gets together with new Indian Authors. He can be reached on aniketsitm@gmail.com.

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