I read To Kill a Mockingbird the summer I left school, so in many ways it was my first ‘adult’ read. I had heard a lot about it, I knew it was about racism and I thought it was going to be awfully heavy and intellectual; as I anticipate all classics to be. I was so pleasantly surprised when I started reading.
To start with the narrative is from the point of view of a little girl (!) which instantly made it all so much more accessible but it also makes it so much more poignant. Racism is a learned behaviour and seeing Scout puzzle over this attitude she doesn’t understand is in a way reassuring because it reaffirms that. What I also liked was that institutionalised racism is tackled; it’s not just a few bigoted people being mean. The injustice of the system is challenged as well as that of the individual and it really hit home for me when reading this novel that governments were doing this to people, the people you turn to for support and order were equally guilty.
However, there are so many other elements to this story it is unbelievable. Boo Radley is this enigma running through the narrative and he suffers a different kind of prejudice for being this bizarre recluse. Once again it is the children who are reaching out to him, although they view him with morbid fascination at first, and Scout feels remorse for him in the end for treating him with such disdain. And let’s not forget that Scout is for all intents and purposes a ‘tom-boy’ who resents the traditional female role that many of the more bigoted characters try to force on her.
There is also the element of Bildungsroman to the story as Scout loses her innocence with every act of injustice. I know I could certainly sympathise with that. I remember as a child I thought I would never live to see Britain at war; that was something for the history books. Then war was declared on Afghanistan and I hated myself for being so naive. I was 7. So seeing Scout become aware of the ability in people to be so cruel really struck a chord with me. Especially as she is so willing to see the good in them too.
I don’t know if anything I have just said has any value or merit what so ever. I found it really hard to write this review without it being a critical essay, something I wish to leave to those with much more skill than me. All I can say is that this novel deserves every praise ever given to it. It is special in a way I cannot explain and would fall endlessly short if I tried to.
Would recommend to: if you only read one book in your life, read this one.