A splendid instance of Harper Lee’s fine word-crafting, a literary gem and a beautiful novel of childhood: To Kill a Mockingbird takes us to spend the summers at the ‘tired old town’ of Maycomb County of Alabama with a pair of a mischievous brother-sister duo, Jem, and Scout. The story is told from the perspective of six-year-old Scout who speaks to the readers with her childlike naivety. To make the narration sound authentic, Lee writes in a language that has a few grammatical follies here and there, the sort of flaws one would expect from children’s usage of language. The plot of the novel focuses on one very sensitive issue of the times the novel is set in Racism.
The book is one of the rare gems which provides a peep at the stereotypical notions of an American society regarding the black folk through a white child’s eyes and emphasizes upon how injustice is subservient to innocence. However, its primary charm rests upon the interesting understanding of such grave circumstances by our narrator. Scout with her brother Jem is always busy in plotting new adventures and the two share a common fascination towards matters that are forbidden to them like any other set of kids. They befriend Dill who has come to spend his summers at his aunt’s and happens to be their new neighbor.
Together the three kids conduct a curious investigation into the much infamous Tom Robbinson’s case and the mysterious existence of Boo Radley. Tom Robbinson is a black nigger who is accused of molesting a white girl, the daughter of nasty drunkard Bob Ewell. A major part of the novel deals with Scout’s response to this matter and her moral rendering conversations with her father, Atticus Finch who is the prosecutor of Tom.
Atticus cleanses Scout’s confusions regarding the unfortunate discrimination faced by the black folks and prevents her notions from being colored by the popular opinion of the day. She also stands by her father when he suffers public ignominy and gets tagged as a ‘Nigger-lover’ for supporting Tom. Amidst this tension, the three kids also try to peep into the life of Boo Radley who is a much talked of, sociopath. Since nobody has ever seen Boo Radley out, there are all sorts of horror stories that surround his personality. The children come up with their individual imagination regarding Boo Radley, sometimes anticipating him to be a monster who watches upon sleeping children at midnight.
However, to their surprise every time they visit the Radley’s to throw a stone or two and see if they can catch a glance at the hideous Boo Radley, they find amusing gifts waiting for them to open at the doorstep or Christmas tree. The significance of the title thus implies towards the harmless normalcy of both Tom Robbinson or for that matter all the black people who are equally victimized by certain conventional prejudices and Boo Radley who is just a well-meaning recluse.
Miss Maudie, Scout’s neighbor tells her that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird since they only add to nature’s beauty and fill the silent chaos of people’s lives with their melody. They don’t nest in your garden nor do they pick on your fruits. In her six-year-old mind, Scout instantly connects the metaphor of Mockingbird with Tom and Boo who are harmless to the society yet mistreated; her innocent white eyes could see the cruelty of her society and the purity of black people.
I am a floating lantern amidst the blue-black clouds.