Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

22:04 Cilla P 0 Comments

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Arrow Books
Source: Aunt's collection, bought from Kinokuniya Singapore
Synopsis:
'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this enchanting classic - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. 

Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much... 

Review: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

'Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.'

There was a number of things about this story that I was unfamiliar with. I grew up in Indonesia, so my knowledge of Southern USA's culture and its history with race largely comes from the news and popular culture. There were a couple of times where I felt like I'm not quite understanding what was being implied or referred to. (I had to google the meaning of 'his food doesn't stick going down, does it?' and what NRA was.) The characters' speech style also took some time for me to get used to. 

Yet those are superficial, and once I sank my teeth into the story, I had no trouble understanding it. Racism is the same everywhere in the world, and the way it plays out in this book made me feel both terribly sad and hopeful at the same time. For every Bob Ewell in the world, there's an Atticus. The characters are appealing and familiar; I lived in a small town for a while and I can think of people in my life who are similar to the Finches' neighbours.  I loved the innocence of the children's observations contrasted with the often prejudiced attitudes of the adults. A part of me suspected the result of the trial, but I didn't expect that conclusion. It was a strangely uplifting end; it was realistic and hopeful - in the sense that justice was served in the end, and just because people are strange doesn't mean they're not good people. 

I enjoy a book that both entertains and makes me pause to think about uncomfortable things, and To Kill A Mockingbird did both perfectly. 

'I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.'

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