Nelle Harper Lee (born 1926 in Alabama) was the American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for her work “To Kill a Mockingbird”, which was published in 1960. This is a story inspired by her childhood experiences and situations with his family and their neighbors.
The story is set in the era of the Great Depression about two children in the south, Jem and Scout, living with his father who is a righteous man who defends his beliefs and what is right. Jem and Scout are kept by their black maid, Calpurnia. The novel begins following the growth of children, emphasizing their natural life away from civilization. The plot thickens when another black character, Tom Robinson, is accused of the rape of a girl from another family in the village and although everyone in the place where they live know he’s innocent, they could not acquit the black man who is accused of rape.
Atticus, the father of the children, is in charge of the defense of the accused and his family has to pay for the consequences by facing the racist contempt of other people. Although the people know that the defendant is a working boy how has never given problems to the town, because he is black, they prefer to agree with the girl’s father who is known to mistreat his family and the lives of others.
Finally in the trial Atticus is able to prove the defendant’s innocence, revealing that the same girl was at fault, having tempted the black boy to kiss her. Her father beat her and blamed Tom Robinson. However, as everyone expected, Tom is guilty and taken to the county jail, where he attempts to flee and is killed by the security guards of the prison.
The girl’s father, Bob Ewell, vows revenge on the lawyer but trying to harm his children but the reclusive Boo Radley saves them ina moment of danger, killing Bob Ewell with the same knife that he tried attacking them. However, the sheriff had previously defended Ewell states that had fallen on his own knife, showing that justice still exists and has not been all in vain.
This novel has become one of the most read and most representative on racism in America, but has also been praised for the narration and the humor. The important themes of the novel include courage, compassion and belief in values and gender roles and color in the south at that time.
Lee shows how gender and class are “factors that intensify prejudice, silence the voices that might challenge the existing order, and greatly complicate the understanding that many Americans have about racism and segregation”. The use of the voice of middle-class narrator is a literary gimmick that allows for an intimacy with the reader, regardless of class or cultural status, and promotes a sense of nostalgia. It has been noted that the novel makes an accurate exploration of different forms of courage.
The lesson from Atticus to Scout that “never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you get into his skin and walk in it” is very profound. While the novel concerns tragedy and injustice, loss and setbacks, it also has a strong imprint of “courage, compassion, and the need to be better human beings”.
Absent mothers and abusive fathers are another theme presented in the novel.
To Kill a Mockingbird is known for its numerous allusions to legal issues, particularly in those scenes set outside the precincts of the court, and has attracted the attention of legal experts. The novel is an analysis of “how Jem and Scout begin to perceive the complexity of social codes and how the creation of relationships dictated by or influenced by these codes affect people in their own little worlds”.
In the novel, Lee uses the figure of the mockingbird to symbolize innocence songbirds and their associated symbolism appears in several scenes of the novel. “‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is to kill that which is innocent and helpless – like Tom Robinson.” Scholars have noted that Lee often brings up the subject of the mockingbird when trying to emphasize a moral issue. Tom Robinson is the chief example of several innocents destroyed without any regret or contemplation throughout the novel.