To Kill A Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize, was picked by librarians as the best book of the 20th century and was made into a wonderful movie starring Gregory Peck. This American classic scrutinizes with unwavering honesty the racism and poverty that exists in a small Alabama town in the 1930’s. Told through the eyes of Scout, a young girl whose father has been tapped to defend a black man accused of raping a poverty-stricken young girl.
Harper Lee eases into this storyline, choosing to begin by first showing the reader the town and its inhabitants. She explores Scout and Jem’s attempts to see Boo Radley, the recluse that lives next door and is rumored to be a blood-thirsty peeping tom. She also explores the unique family dynamic that exists between the kids, their father Atticus and their housekeeper, Calpernia. By the time the trial rolls around, the reader knows the characters and the town; it’s an easy leap to discern what effect a trial of this magnitude will have on this small town.
Scout’s father, Atticus Finch must defend a man already convicted by most of the town’s white inhabitants. He can only show that Tom Robinson, a tall black man with a withered arm from an accident with a cotton gin could not have beaten and battered the simple Mayella Ewell.Her injuries were clearly done by someone left-handed and well Tom's left arm was rendered useless by the accident. Clearly, he couldn't have done it. Even with a preponderance of evidence in Tom’s favor and the knowledge that Mayella receives frequent beatings and possibly more from her father; Tom is still convicted of the crime and sent to prison. Tom's conviction seems to be a fait accompli as he is a negro in the rural south and few if any juries at that time would choose to believe a black man over a white man.
A constant theme in the book is that one must spend time in another person's shoes in order to really know him. Or as Atticus puts it “climb into his skin and walk around in it." Once you see things from the other person's point of view--you may be less likely to judge him. Atticus suggests this to Scout in regard to Boo Radley, Walter Cunningham and Bob Ewell. It's at the climax of the novel that she is really able to do that and you really see her growth.
Great book. Read it. You'll be glad you did. If you've already read it. Read it again.