I didn’t know much about this book and honestly speaking expected a typical courtroom drama where the blacks were being pitted against the whites, and you have one lone crusader who is trying to fight for them.
It was so much more.
Harper Lee, in To Kill a Mocking Bird, her first book, beautifully weaves the world of two kids – Jem and Scout Finch – and through their eyes takes us into the lives of their dad Atticus Finch, and the varied characters of Maycomb County, complete with the mysterious neighbour, the nosy old women, the bullying kids, the defiant policeman, the upright reporter, the amusing judge, the helps and the hidden society of the oppressed.
In the course of their adventures and observations, what she skillfully reveals is a refreshing way of seeing the world as it is, a way that remains, still, untainted by the various prejudices and hypocrisies that adults have about them. Makes you think twice on who is actually the wiser.
Humour sneaks in throughout the book at the most unexpected moments, largely in the thoughts of Jem and Scout, the latter mainly, a little girl with enough doubts and gumption to put any adult in a tight spot. But their doubts only tug at your heartstrings for they show what they really are, just kids, trying hard to make sense of the obvious irrationality of the adult world.
Atticus Finch, a character so steadfast yet amusing, is among the handful in those times that doesn’t believe in racism but is rather fighting the silent war against it, knowing very well that it might seem like a lost cause now but not giving up on the hope that someday it’ll all change. However what he is fighting the most is to be a better example to his children. What he is protecting the most is the free spirited, unprejudiced innocence they possess while at the same time letting them learn the ways of the world on their own.
“Shoot all the Blue Jays you want, if you can hit ‘em. But remember it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.”
A simple statement by him that reveals the clarity of his thoughts and the gentle manner in which he is nudging his kids to understand the difference between the choices they must make one day.
Read this. Read this to re-live your childhood as you enter the minds of the Finch kids. Read this for the beautiful but painful humour that Harper Lee has deftly used to drive the point home. Read this to understand what it must be like to know someone by standing in his shoes and walking around in them. Read this, because it is one of the most beautiful portrayals of what is wrong in the way we see the world.
And like in the end when Scout rambles away in her sleep about a character she read or encountered, “… Atticus, he was real nice.”, Atticus replies, “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
Well, aren’t they really.
Photos: Remya Nair