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[35] To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

One of the most unforgettable stories of all time, To Kill A Mockingbird becomes a landmark novel in American literature since its publication in 1960. It is a novel of a lawyer, Atticus, in the deep south defending a black man Tom Robinson charged with the rape of a white girl. Nine-years-old Jean Louise Atticus, from whom her father always shelters and whom neighbors often deems too young to understand the racial struggle, narrates the story. She does it with a stark manner and equanimity of an adult who is savvy of the law. Her perspective is unbridled of the biased and disapproving voices of the town, of which nobody does even one thing to help Tom Robinson, let alone risking one’s own life to defend a black man who in the secret courts of men’s hearts have no case. That simply being a black yields a disadvantage in the jury’s deliberation let alone a black man who is allegedly convicted of an act of felony against a white person. Tom Robinson is dead as the girl opens her mouth and rains charges on him.

A child’s narration cuts to the core of hypocrisy: some of the most religious people turn their blind eye to an innocent black man who in the absence of any corroborative evidence is indicted on a capital charge and is on the trial of his life. Jean Louise’s voice of the narrative might be hesitant, dubious, and questioning, she packs the novel with intimate voice of conversation, of people living and sorting out their lives and the whole racial entangle. Atticus therefore bears a formidable task to not only defend Tom Robinson but also to rebuff, with a righteous indignation, the inveterate discrimination against the blacks. He thrives to protect the children from absorbing the human ugliness: Why can’t people get along with each other? Who do people get out of their way to despise one another? What really scares me is such racial labeling still exists now but in a subtler manner that no longer makes people feel broken. In the recent Katrina news coverage, the media labeled a black woman who waded through the hip-deep water hurling supplies out of a store a looter. Racial labeling pervades people like babies born with basic instincts: it renders a stereotype that is culpable of perception that is laden with judgment.

Atticus knows that Tom Robinson’s case, though it is as simple as black and white that it should never have come to trial, is something that dives right into the essence of a man’s conscience. Conscience is the one thing that does not abide by the majority rule. It transcends all racial difference and confronts the intimacy of one’s heart. That is the reason he wishes his children to embrace some “ugly things” that are concomitant of his defending a black man – for all he does is to abide by his conscience and to come clear of it. It is never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name, especially when one is defending a good cause against mendacious testimony. It just shows how poor and piteous people are when they with maddening superiority thrive to label and call name at others.

To Kill A Mockingbird vehemently condemns those who recklessly bend the law at the expense of the innocent’s life for the satisfaction of one’s supremacy. It also satirizes self-righteous people who rave madly when anything involving a black person occurs. Every page of the novel reminds us that the fight for equality is yet over: it radiates a wave of racial tension and menacing undertow of conflict.


9 Responses

  1. We read this novel in high school, but after recently seeing “Capote,” I’ve thought about reading it again. I remember it being one of the few great adaptations of a novel into a film. There is a rumor that Truman Capote ghost wrote this for Harper Lee, but after reading interviews with her, I’m not sure I believe that. She’s sounds like she is a very capable woman

  2. I think Dill in “To Kill A Mockingbird” is Capote, the idea dawns on me when I was sitting in the movie.

  3. I’m almost positive that Dill is Capote. I saw ‘Capote’ right after reading Mockingbird and In Cold Blood and it felt like that bit of knowledge just jumped out at me. He fits perfectly, the home life and coming to live next door with the aunt.

    It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who thought that.

  4. piksea-

    “Dill was a curiosity. He wore blue linen shorts that buttoned to his shirt, his hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duckfluff; he was a year my senior but I towered over him. As he told us the old tale his blue eyes would lighten and darken; his laugh was sudden and happy; he habitually pulled at a cowlick in the center of his forehead.”

    In his childhood Capote made friends with Harper Lee, who might have portrayed him as Dill in her world famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

  5. I think that To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book and movie that show the true injustice and prejudice of the south back then.

  6. […] on Oct 4. It’s a fictionalized account of Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) meeting Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird). The blurb […]

  7. […] book you believe everyone should read: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper […]

  8. To Kill a Mocking Bird

    This book inspires me to complete a law degree on a part time basis. It also inspires me to respect and uphold the sanctity of life, be it animal or human, the dignity of every individual human being, regardless of race, color, and creed, and the supremacy of love and justice.

    But I was surprised to find out later that the author Harper Lee dropped out in the last year of her study for the law degree in order to become a writer. And To Kill the Mocking Bird is her only published novel.

    Dan Kwok

  9. […] Other Reviews: A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook  […]

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