To Kill a Mockingbird

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If You Kill a Mocking Bird, I'll Kill You!*

Dec 13, 2002 (Updated Dec 14, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:...Everything...

Cons:...None...

The Bottom Line: Read To Kill a Mockingbird. Everything is perfect-- characters, setting, theme, plot, and writing style.


Hmm… Let’s see, what elements are crucial in creating a good book? The answer to this question may be different to some people, but for me? I look for an intriguing plot, well-developed characters, nice writing style, and a theme of some sort. Sounds like a good enough answer, right? Anyway, what I’m here to say is that To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, has all the key elements that make a book excellent .

Book Stats

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Pages: 281
Copyright 1960
ISBN 0-446-31078-6

Characters

All the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird are realistic and round, it’s like you’re right there with them doing all the fun things that they get to do. The main characters of this fine piece of American Literature are children, but do not get the wrong idea, To Kill a Mockingbird is not a children’s story.

All the main characters (or shall I say most) are introduced in the first chapter of the book (along with the setting and the family background).

Jean “Scout” Louise Finch: Wow… what a name. Anyway, Scout is a young girl in the 1st grade (however, at the end of the book she is in the 3rd grade) and loves to play with the guys… aka a tomboy. She along with her brother, Jem, and her “future husband,” Dill, love trying to make the infamous hermit, Boo Radley (her neighbor) to come out of his house and do other “boy stuff.” Scout is prone to trouble and is not ashamed of it. If you offend her or any family member of hers, you better watch out… or she’ll sock ya! A few other words that describe this young lady would be adventurous, curious,out-going, and determined.

Jeremy “Jem” Finch: Jem is 4 years older than Scout and is not as adventurous or wild as Scout. He’s much more mature ( but just keep in mind that we’re comparing a 1st grader and a 5th grader) and would prefer to play with kids his own age. However, Scout just somehow sucks him in to playing with her. And even though he is a lot more cooperative and older than Scout, he too is terrified of that strange guy next door, Boo Radley. Jem also seems to be at the point in his life where he is going through those different stages. For example, he gets emotionally depressed because a major town court trial and also is depressed because he did not make the football team. When it comes to leading the way or coming up with ideas, Jem is usually the person who takes charge.

Atticus Finch: Atticus Finch, the father of Jem and Scout, is probably the most relaxed person I know. Rarely will he ever get angry and has hardly raised his voice. He’s not like most of the father’s in Jem and Scout’s school, which is an issue to the kids. Atticus loves to read and he works as a lawyer. The other kids in school think that Atticus is not brave and I guess you could say kind of a sissy when compared to the other fathers. But when Atticus defends a black man in a court trial, you will know that he is no sissy. :-)

The characters mentioned above are the true main characters; however, there is a laundry list of other characters that could be added. Some of the more important ones include:

Boo Radley
Tom Robinson
Aunt Alexandra
Mayella Ewell
Robert Ewell

Setting

To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in the southern town of Maycomb, Alabama. Maycomb is your typical southern town except for one thing… segregation. All the white folk seem to live in the town while the blacks live on the outer edges of the town called the Quarters. The people in Maycomb, for the most part, are fairly nice. However, there are a few outcasts—the Radleys and the Ewells. Harper Lee gives us a nicely sketched image of Maycomb and she really lets us get to know the area in which the Finches live. Throughout the book, you will be able to identify which neighbor lives where, where the school is located, etc.

Plot

To Kill a Mockingbird is divided into two parts- Part One and Part Two. Let’s begin with Part One, shall we?

The first part of the story (which is 112 pages long) really lets us get to know the personality of the characters. Sure, that’s not all that happens, but I honestly think that’s one of the main reasons in which the first part of To Kill a Mockingbird was written. Part One is full of anecdotes of the adventures of Jem and Scout. We get to see what Scout’s first day of the first grade is like, and we get to see a typical Finch Christmas. But one of the most important parts of Part One is the whole issue with Boo Radley. Boo Radley has a pretty bad reputation in Maycomb… at least for children. Boo had gotten himself into some trouble when he was younger and has not been seen outside of his house for years! Each summer, the three kids (Jem, Scout, and Dill) will do whatever they can to get a glimpse of this strange character. They’ve stuck a note on a fishing pole and tried to insert it through the shutters (didn’t work) and once even came up to the window which ended up with Nathan Radley coming out of the house with a gun! Will the kids ever get to see the infamous Boo Radley?

Part Two takes on what To Kill a Mockingbird is really about. Part Two really deals with the issue of racial discrimination. Atticus Finch is called on a case in which Robert Ewell claims that Tom Robinson raped his daughter, Mayella Ewell. Attucus’s role in the trial is to defend Tom. (The kids stay at home with Aunt Alexandra until the day of the trial.) And the role that Atticus plays really stirs up some controversy in Maycomb. People come late at night trying to harm Atticus just because of the fact that he’s defending a black person and even kids at school make fun of Atticus, calling him a n-igger lover and other explicit names. We the reader know that Tom Robinson is innocent, but will the verdict be? Who will win the case? Will Tom win, or will it be Robert? Will the jury decide honestly, or will they vote against Tom because of his skin color?

Part Two also consists of several anecdotes of the adventures of Jem, Scout, and Dill… But what I described above is the most important.

The questions I left at each of the paragraphs above in the Plot section are answered in Part Two and create a theme to remember.

Writing Style and Other Comments…

Personally, I loved the writing style in To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee really knows how to use fancy words and knows how to make a book flow. The Southern accent is not hard to decipher at all (unlike some other classics, such as Tom Sawyer). I liked how Ms. Lee divided the book into two sections, making it easier for the reader to remember all the events that happened throughout the book.

The font size is pretty average… not too large, not too small. I’d say it’s around an 8 or 9 point font.

What did I like about To Kill a Mockingbird? Everything. Pretty much all the characters in the story are well-developed, seemed very realistic, and round. When reading the book, you feel that small-town charm… The theme is excellent, and one more thing… I liked how the main characters of the book were kids. Maybe it’s just me, but when I read this story, it made feel like a really young, adventurous kid I used to be, or still am… If the story were told by Atticus’s point of view, I can almost be positive that the book would not be as exciting or entertaining, for that matter.

What didn’t I like about the book? For me, there were absolutely no downsides to the book… none. But I can see, however, why the book was banned and stirred up some controversy. The word n-igger is used throughout the book which I’m sure angered some people. But what I don’t get is this… If they read the entire book, I’m sure they would not be mad because the book explains how it’s important not to call people names and judge people before you actually get to know them.

Will I be staying up hours and hours reading To Kill a Mockingbird? Even though I loved the story and has been added to my list of “My Favorite Books,” To Kill a Mockingbird didn't make me stay up late wanting to read page after page. Not once did I stay up late thinking about what was going to happen next. Maybe it was because I just wanted to read and find out and didn’t take the time to think, or maybe I didn’t want the book to end. Who knows?

Theme: The theme of To Kill a Mockingbird is what makes it a classic and a Masterpiece of American Literature. The theme is simply this: Don’t judge a person based on skin color or rumors until you really get to know that person. Who knows? They might be a whole lot different than what you’d expect. One of the phrases used in the book was “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” Brilliant… Anyway, the theme itself is what makes this book so renown.

About Harper Lee

Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama in the year of 1926. She studied law at the University of Alabama and University of Oxford in England from 1945-1950. In the 1950’s, Lee started taking in some interest in writing. After 3 years of editing and writing, Lee finally published her one and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer prize in 1961 and was turned into an award-winning movie in 1962.

Wanna know more about Harper Lee? If so, visit some of the following websites:

encarta.msn.com/find/concise.asp?ti=761579644

www.chebucto.ns.ca/Culture/HarperLee/index.html

www.chebucto.ns.ca/Culture/HarperLee/bio.html

Final Thoughts

What can I say? To Kill a Mockingbird is just about perfect. It’s definitely added to my list of “Favorite Books” and for the following reasons—realistic characters, intriguing plot, superb theme, great writing style, and a charming setting. Wow! That covers just about everything that there is in a book… yup! That’s how good it is… :-)

I’d recommend To Kill a Mockingbird to kids ages 13 and up. It’s a little too mature (even though the main characters are children) for young ones because of language and concepts, but I’d recommend it to everyone that can read it and fully understand it.

If you don’t like To Kill a Mockingbird, I honestly think you didn’t really understand it or are just plain stupid (just kidding). Anyway, what I’m getting at hear is… read this book.

*The title is not meant in a serious way or anything... Just trying to think of a title. :-)

Thanks for reading and enjoy To Kill a Mockingbird!












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