It has been a long time since I last read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and despite the fact I am forever seeing it in school, it is not something I have observed being taught or something I have had to teach myself, so I was delighted to read it again without feeling the need to rush through it as school preparation. In truth, I devoured the novel in a matter of days, becoming fully submerged in the lives of Scout, Jem and Atticus and the unbelievable prejudice of 1930s America.
Atticus Finch is called upon to defend a young black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a white girl and the novel is told through the eyes of his eight year old daughter, Scout. It is through her narration of, not only the rape trial but her childhood as a whole, that she explores and discovers the hypocrisy of life, in particular the nature and attitudes of grown ups in her small town in the Deep South. The way Lee uses a child narrator to explore race, class and prejudice in this novel is fascinating; Scout is able to pinpoint the lack of equality and reasoning behind so many different events that arguably an adult narrator would not have been able to do. A particular favourite of mine centres on a schoolroom discussion about Adolf Hitler; the teacher is quick to highlight that Hitler is a dictator and a maniac and that his treatment of the Jews is unforgivable. Scout is quick to spot the hypocrisy in her teacher’s views, asking Jem ‘how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home-?’
One aspect of Lee’s novel that I feel rings true to me personally is the behaviour of Boo Radley and how the children react to him. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know when I was growing up there was always a neighbour on your street or your friend’s street who you were convinced was a witch or a madman. But maybe my friends and I just had overactive imaginations. I can vividly remember the women we thought was a witch and I can also remember the games we used to play on long summer’s days centred on this woman and how we were able to identify her as witch and what would happen if she ever caught us. The fear and curiosity Boo Radley evokes in the children’s minds is something I feel we can all relate to, and we are all at danger of letting our imagination run away with us, especially when we are young, so I find the moment when Scout realises the truth about Boo particularly poignant…even though it has been many years since I stopped believing that woman was a witch!
All in all I loved rereading this classic, and I cannot wait to read some more American Fiction; think I will be delving back through my A Level reading list and all the work I did on twentieth century American literature.