The novel by Harper Lee – the first work of a young American writer – once again confirms that in the literature there are no trivial themes and plots, there are only banal tricks.
The book takes place in the town of America in the 1930s. In Alabama, where the Finch family lives: Atticus Finch and his children – Jean-Louise, who in the family is called simply “Scout,” and Jim. His wife died when Scout was two years old. In the summer, her seven-year-old nephew Dill comes to visit Finches’ neighbor, a great inventor who immediately becomes a friend of Jim and Scout. A company of three children is experiencing different adventures.
The writer uses an interesting technique: the adult world is shown through the eyes of the child. The narrative of the book is conducted on behalf of the little girl Jean-Louise Finch (at the beginning of the book she is 6 years old – at the end of 9), which everyone calls “Scout.” The nickname is thought up extremely successfully. Jean Louise sees everything, and even if something she cannot explain yet, she still hides all the details, so that later, having become an adult woman, tells us about it.
“Eyed” with a lawyer-dad and brother John (her mother died) lives in the small town of Maycomb in the south of the United States. This place lives a life of seclusion in accordance with its laws, and the storm of the outside world (and the novel takes place in the mid-1930s during the Great Depression) hardly touches it. It is not surprising that for a girl of her years, the main thing in life is all kinds of games and entertainments that she makes up with her brother and with buddy Jill coming for the summer (among other things, his prototype was another famous American writer Truman Capote, with whom Harper Lee met in childhood). To children’s play superimposed plot thread of the novel, in the center of which is the court case on unsubstantiated charges of raping a white nigger woman. The heroine’s father – Atticus Finch – decided to address a lawyer “a black man,” which nearly cost him his life (he wanted to lynch mob), and then his daughter.
This plot shows the psychological problems of the growing girl are superimposed, which gradually realizes that the world around it is not as prosperous as it seemed. Neighbors and even friends do not fit into the usual schemes imposed by the southern society, and Scout has to learn from the pope what a compromise is. She has to learn and much more. For example, that Scarecrow Radley, their neighbor, whom they portrayed as an evil monster in their games, is a kind person with a crippled father’s fate.
At some point, Dill learns the story of the Scarecrow Radley (Boo). Scarecrow or Arthur Radley is a mysterious figure among the inhabitants of Maycomb. For fifteen years no one has seen him. Children believe that it comes out only at night and eats raw squirrels and cats. Since the time when the children try to see the Scarecrow Radley, the events take an unexpected turn.
And then there is drama in the adult world. A black man is accused of violence against a white girl. Father Scout is a lawyer, and he is entrusted with this matter. But it’s impossible to win, because Tom Robinson is black, which means he’s guilty no matter what and there is also Mrs. Dubose. For the white inhabitants of Maycomb, the Afro-American is a second-class man who cannot be trusted. Despite the brilliant defense of Atticus Finch, Tom is convicted. During the attempt to escape from prison, Tom Robinson is killed.
The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” is the life of a six-year-old girl, whom she tells herself. Scout describes everything he sees around, even that which he does not yet understand (but the reader understands very well). Why, with all the obvious innocence of Tom Robinson, he is found guilty, why is the Scarecrow Radley(Boo) sitting in confinement, or why, even though she reads since she was four, she is scolded at school for this and forced to learn to read anew, it was his trial. As always, the child’s simple questions denounce the adults in lies, pretense, and selfishness.
But all the same, the main theme of the book is not social inequality for people, not racial and other prejudices, but the theme of the family, the environment where children live and grow up. Atticus Finch is a wonderful father who needs to learn all his parents. In the most difficult situations, he can unobtrusively explain to his children what is good and what is bad and create an atmosphere of mutual trust and honesty. Atticus Finch is an example of constant moral education and care for the inner life of his children.
In addition, the novel contains and magnificent sketches of provincial life, which could be independent novels. What is the story of a rare event in the life of southern Maycomb – the snowfall, which Jean Louise saw the first time in her life?
I cannot but mention the wonderful language of the writer, who was expertly informed by translator Nora Gal. In his penetrating and, at the same time, living intonations, expressive details, and vivid details, much of the charm of this novel lies. And despite the tragic pages, the book is filled with sparkling humor, because childhood is a happy time, so it remained in the memory of the grown “Scout.”
As for any work of the Big Literature, it is rather difficult to define the genre “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It cannot be said unequivocally that this is a female romance, a book for children or an autobiographical novel – most likely, all this simultaneously, it combines them all.
The central event in the book is the trial of the black man. Harper Lee puts his whole soul into the description of the whole action. It describes futility. The defender at the beginning of the process already knows that he will lose the case. And how much the author would not try to convince the reader of the nobility of impulses of the humiliated person, creating for the reader a picture of injustice in human minds. Maybe she did not finish something. All the same, the jury trial is the highest achievement of democracy. It cannot be wrong. Or it can be?