This is a book set in the state of Alabama, USA or as they say the Deep South in the early decades of the 20th century. The book is about a black man convicted for a crime he hasn’t committed, that is, raping a white woman.
It covers the irrational prejudices held by human minds against different classes of society and racial hatred in this little town of Maycomb. It also very colourfully (no pun intended) describes black slavery in the most domestic terms. What is extraordinary about this book is that it is written from the eyes of two children who witness this case of a black man being framed shamelessly by a town which is familiar with the truth. While a lot has been said about racism and targeting the weakness of an innocent featured in this book, surprisingly, the humour created by the minds of these two children growing up is highly underrated. Unintentional humour created by children is always refreshing and To Kill a Mockingbird does not disappoint. If you are tired of reading books that tell you how to think and keep repeating the diktats of society or keep addressing the distortion of justice, you’ll love this book.
The writer gives us an idea of how a child’s mind works. She shows just how perceptive children actually are and how their ideas of justice and right and wrong are so much simpler. Our society would indeed benefit and our judicial systems run smoother if kids could have it their way!
This is not just a funny book addressing a serious issue; this is ‘the funny book’ addressing the one serious issue that most American authors of the time tend to ignore or overlook. ‘To Kill’ has got to be the book with the most under-appreciated protagonist ever and that is what makes it so appealing in a way. The father of these two children is the only white person in the entire town who stands up for the accused and takes up his case as a lawyer. While to the black community he must be a Messiah, Mr. Atticus Finch is just an ordinary slightly above middle-aged man who is nothing short of the ideal man in my eyes. He treats his children well, never differentiating between his daughter and his son. The high principles he holds himself up to, soon catch up to his children and although it pains him to see them suffer for that, he understands that that is the price to be paid if he wants to raise them right. He portrays a gentleman who treats a black woman with as much respect and dignity as he does his insufferable, prejudiced sister. Perhaps it is true what they say about children making us conscientious.
If there is one thing that jumps out at you after reading this book is how people would rather keep on being cruel and unjust simply because it is far too difficult, shaming and painful to admit that they have collectively pretended to be blind to actual people with real suffering so as to spare themselves the discomfort.