Title and Cover:
The title of the book is symbolic and incorporates the various themes and subthemes of the novel- ‘To kill’ is to destroy and a ‘mockingbird’ is a representation of innocence. Thus, it is destruction of innocence.
Awards and Achievements:
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1961), National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (1961), Alabama Author Award – Fiction (1961), Audie Award for Classic (2007).
Over the years, it has been translated in 40 languages with over 80 million copies in print. It was later made into a motion picture which own the Academy Awards.
The story revolves around the two children, six-year-old Jean Louise Finch (nicknamed Scout) and her elder brother, Jeremy (nicknamed Jem), who lives in the “tired old town” of Maycomb Alabama with their widowed father, Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer. They befriend Dill who comes to Maycomb every summer to stay with his aunt. Together they venture into many childhood escapades and are especially fascinated and yet terrified of their mysterious neighbor Authur ‘Boo’ Radley about whom much is talked about but not much is known. As the children feeds their imagination about ‘Boo’, they receive small gifts from him as affectionate gesture but never see him in person.
The story takes a complete twist when Atticus is appointed to defend a black man called Tom Robinson who is accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. As Atticus decides to defend Tom, he and the children suffers abuses in the hands of the citizens of Maycomb for defending a black and is called as ‘nigger-love’. Through the trial of Tom Robinson, Lee exposes the hypocrisy, prejudice, hatred and racism prevalent in the America’s ‘Deep South’ during the years of Great Depression. Integral to the story is the rape of Mayella Ewell and the revenge of Bob Ewell.
A Critical Review:
One of the most unforgettable novels of American literature, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ quintessentially explores moral nature of human behavior. Seen through the eyes of two innocent children, the story becomes all more appealing as they try to understand the adult world form their perspective. We can see their transition from innocence to experience as they encounter the evils in the society they never thought really existed. Their faith in goodness is badly shattered as they explore the evils of racism thorough the trail of Tom, the prejudice that ‘Boo’ suffers due to the ignorance of townsfolk, the hatred and hypocrisy they see and suffer in the hands of the citizens of the otherwise sleepy town of Maycomb. It is only the reassuring voice of Atticus Finch whose understanding of good and evil and his belief in human capacity to do good that restores faith in the children at the end. It is a universal story of love and compassion, of hate and revenge, of innocence and kindness, of prejudice and ignorance, of humor and pathos, that makes the novel a true Classic.
Lee did not publish her second book, ‘Go Set A Watchman’ till 2015. No doubt, such is the appeal of the book that it remains one of the most memorable classics of American literature to this date.