To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.Compassionate, dramatic, and deepl...

Title:To Kill a Mockingbird
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0061120081
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:324 pages

To Kill a Mockingbird Reviews

  • Houston

    “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”(p. 20)

    I love this book and this idea of reading being like breathing. As Scout did, I read early too, and often. Every night before bed I would read and still do. I saw a Twilight Zone Episode once where the main character loved to read and only wanted to be left alone to do so. After falling asleep in the vault of the bank where he worked, he awoke to a post-disaster world where only he was left. He busily gat

    “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”(p. 20)

    I love this book and this idea of reading being like breathing. As Scout did, I read early too, and often. Every night before bed I would read and still do. I saw a Twilight Zone Episode once where the main character loved to read and only wanted to be left alone to do so. After falling asleep in the vault of the bank where he worked, he awoke to a post-disaster world where only he was left. He busily gathered together all the books he wanted to read, all organized and stacked up. Just as he chose one to start with, his glasses fell and he stepped on them trying to find them. It was terrible and I remember feeling horrified that this man would never get to read again! Such a thought had never occurred to me. This semester I had to get glasses myself after suffering migraines from reading. I was so nervous at the eye doctor because the thought of not being able to read was too much for me. Of course, I only needed readers, but when I ran across this quote, I thought about how much like breathing reading is for me.

    “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.” (p. 87)

    Never say die! Fight the good fight no matter what! I love the anti-defeatist message in this quote. Even though Atticus knows the deck is stacked against him, he tries anyway. He understands that sometimes you have to fight the un-winnable fight just for the chance that you might win. It makes me think that what he’s trying to teach his children is never to give up just because things look dim.

    “...before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.” (p. 120)

    As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” That’s really all that matters. At the end of the day, when you lay down, you have to know that you did the right things, acted the right way and stayed true to yourself. Again, Atticus understands that the town is talking; he has to explain to his kids why he continues against the tide of popular thought. He sums it up so well here.

    “We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.”(p. 320)

    I love the sad way this quote sounds. It is clearly the thoughts of a child, for hadn’t Scout just given Boo his dignity as they were walking home? Hadn’t she and Jem given him children to care for and watch over? But she knows too, even from her child’s perspective, that they could never give him anything close to what he had given them—their lives. It just sounds so beautifully sad.

    Works Cited

    Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. Print.

  • Kim

    Why is it when I pick up

    , I am instantly visited by a sensory memory: I’m walking home, leaves litter the ground, crunching under my feet. I smell the smoke of fireplaces and think about hot cider and the wind catches and my breath is taken from me and I bundle my coat tighter against me and lift my head to the sky, no clouds, just a stunning blue that hurts my eyes, another deep breath and I have this feeling that all is okay.

    Why? Why this memory? I mean, this takes pla

    Why is it when I pick up

    , I am instantly visited by a sensory memory: I’m walking home, leaves litter the ground, crunching under my feet. I smell the smoke of fireplaces and think about hot cider and the wind catches and my breath is taken from me and I bundle my coat tighter against me and lift my head to the sky, no clouds, just a stunning blue that hurts my eyes, another deep breath and I have this feeling that all is okay.

    Why? Why this memory? I mean, this takes place in

    and mostly in the summer, well there is that one climatic scene on Halloween, but I bet it’s still hot enough to melt the balls off a brass monkey.

    It must be the school thing, my daughter just finished reading it, prompting me to give it another go, to fall back into Scout’s world and pretend to be eight and let life simply be.

    How is that? How can life for Scout be simple? I mean, she lives in the south, during the depression, she has to deal with ignorant schoolteachers and town folk, her ideas of what is right, what is what it should be are laughed at by her schoolmates… man, and I thought my childhood was rough.

    Still, she lives in this idyllic town, I mean, except for the racism and the creepy neighbors and the whole fact that it’s, you know, the south…(forgive me… I’m not immune to the downfalls of the north, I mean, we had witches and well, Ted Bundy was born here…) But, there’s this sense of childlike innocence to this book that makes me believe in humanity… even in the throes of evil. What am I saying here? I guess, that this is a good pick me up.

    What I also get from this book is that I have severe Daddy issues. I consume Atticus Finch in unnatural ways. He is the ultimate father; he has the perfect response for every situation. He is the transcendent character. My heart melts at each sentence devoted to him and I just about crumble during the courtroom scene.

    Am I gushing? I sure am. I was raised by a man who thought that Budweiser can artwork was the epitome of culture. That drinking a 6-pack was the breakfast of champions. That college was for sissies. He could throw out a racial slur without a single thought, care or worry to who was around. I won't even get into the debates/rantings of a 16 yr old me vs a 42 yr old him... What a role model.

    So, I thank Harper Lee for giving me Atticus. I can cuddle up with my cider and pretend that I’m basking in his light. I can write this blurb that makes sense to maybe a handful but that is okay, I am approved of and all is good.

  • Meghan

    If I could give this no stars, I would. This is possibly one of my least favorite books in the world, one that I would happily take off of shelves and stow in dark corners where no one would ever have to read it again.

    I think that To Kill A Mockingbird has such a prominent place in (American) culture because it is a naive, idealistic piece of writing in which naivete and idealism are ultimately rewarded. It's a saccharine, rose-tinted eulogy for the nineteen thirties from an orator who comes not

    If I could give this no stars, I would. This is possibly one of my least favorite books in the world, one that I would happily take off of shelves and stow in dark corners where no one would ever have to read it again.

    I think that To Kill A Mockingbird has such a prominent place in (American) culture because it is a naive, idealistic piece of writing in which naivete and idealism are ultimately rewarded. It's a saccharine, rose-tinted eulogy for the nineteen thirties from an orator who comes not to bury, but to praise. Written in the late fifties, TKAM is free of the social changes and conventions that people at the time were (and are, to some extent) still grating at. The primary dividing line in TKAM is not one of race, but is rather one of good people versus bad people -- something that, of course, Atticus and the children can discern effortlessly.

    The characters are one dimensional. Calpurnia is the Negro who knows her place and loves the children; Atticus is a good father, wise and patient; Tom Robinson is the innocent wronged; Boo is the kind eccentric; Jem is the little boy who grows up; Scout is the precocious, knowledgable child. They have no identity outside of these roles. The children have no guile, no shrewdness--there is none of the delightfully subversive slyness that real children have, the sneakiness that will ultimately allow them to grow up. Jem and Scout will be children forever, existing in a world of black and white in which lacking knowledge allows people to see the truth in all of its simple, nuanceless glory.

    I think that's why people find it soothing: TKAM privileges, celebrates, even, the child's point of view. Other YA classics--Huckleberry Finn; Catcher in the Rye; A Wrinkle in Time; The Day No Pigs Would Die; Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret; Bridge to Terabithia--feature protagonists who are, if not actively fighting to become adults, at least fighting to find themselves as people. There is an active struggle throughout each of those books to make sense of the world, to define the world as something larger than oneself, as something that the protagonist can somehow be a part of. To Kill A Mockingbird has no struggle to become part of the world--in it, the children *are* the world, and everything else is just only relevant in as much as it affects them. There's no struggle to make sense of things, because to them, it already makes sense; there's no struggle to be a part of something, because they're already a part of everything. There's no sense of maturation--their world changes, but it leaves them, in many ways, unchanged, and because of that, it fails as a story for me. The whole point of a coming of age story--which is what TKAM is generally billed as--is that the characters come of age, or at least mature in some fashion, and it just doesn't happen.

    All thematic issues aside, I think that the writing is very, er, uneven, shall we say? Overwhelmingly episodic, not terribly consistent, and largely as dimensionless as the characters.

  • Stephen

    6.0 stars. I know I am risking a serious “FILM AT 11” moment and a club upside the head from

    for voicing this, but nabbit dog I still think it needs to be said…TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of the BEST and MOST IMPORTANT American novels ever written. Okay, I said it, and I will wait patiently while you get your

    and

    out of the way and hang your “no shit” signs outside for Inspector Holmes.

    Okay, now given the gruntload of reviews/ratings this book has I know I’m not the f

    6.0 stars. I know I am risking a serious “FILM AT 11” moment and a club upside the head from

    for voicing this, but nabbit dog I still think it needs to be said…TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of the BEST and MOST IMPORTANT American novels ever written. Okay, I said it, and I will wait patiently while you get your

    and

    out of the way and hang your “no shit” signs outside for Inspector Holmes.

    Okay, now given the gruntload of reviews/ratings this book has I know I’m not the first person to wag my chin about how amazing it is. Still, I am going to chance coming off like that annoying dingleberry at the tail end of a huge porcelain party because I truly have a pile of love for this book.

    So if my review can bring a few more people into the Atticus Finch Fan Club, I will be just flush with happy.

    On one level, this book is a fairly straight-forward coming of age story about life in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression. It has a very slice of lifesaver warmth and simplicity to it that I think resonates with a lot of readers. It certainly does with me and I think the adjective “charm” may have been invented to describe the novel.

    Despite how easing flowing the narrative is, this book is both extremely and deceptively powerful in its discussion of race, tolerance and human decency. Most importantly, this book shows us by example the courage to stand all up in the grill of injustice and say “Not today, Asshole! Not on my watch.”

    That is a lesson that I think we can never be reminded of too often. When bad people do bad things to good people, the rest of us good people need to sack up and be counted regardless of how scary it might be. Easier said then done, I know. But at least that should be the standard to which we strive.

    Atticus Fitch is the epitome of that standard. He is the role model to end all role models and what is most impressive is that he comes across as such a REAL person. There is no John Wayne/Jack Bauer/Dirty Harry cavalry charging BSD machismo about him. Just a direct, unflinching, unrelenting willingness to always do what he thinks is right. As Atticus’ daughter Scout puts it so well:

    I was to make something crystal before going on because it is an important part of my love of this story. Notwithstanding this book's powerful, powerful moral message, it never once…ever…comes off as preachy or heavy handed. There is no lecture to be given here. The only sermon we are privy to is the example of Atticus Finch and the simple yet unwavering strength and quiet decency of the man. Even when asked by his daughter about the horrendous racism being displayed by the majority of the townsfolk during a critical point in the story, Atticus responds with conviction but without:

    This is a special story. Oh, and as a huge bonus…it is also an absolute joy to read. Lee’s prose is silky smooth and as cool as the other side of the pillow. Read this book. Read it with your children, read it with your spouse, read it by yourself….read it the bigoted assclown that you work with or see around the neighborhood…Just make sure you read it. It is a timeless classic and one of the books that I consider a “life changer.” 6.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!!!

    BONUS QUOTE: This is Scout talking to Atticus after getting to know someone she had previously be afraid of:

    (Emphasis added)

  • Jon
  • Lit Bug

    In the course of 5 years, I’ve read this book nearly 17 times. That adds up to reading it once at least every 4 months, on an average. And I still return to this book like a bark seeking a lighthouse in the dark. When I first finished it, I was so overwhelmed by how much I related to it, I read it nearly 8 times before the year ended. By now I’ve memorized almost every scene and I still can’t shake off the feeling that I still have to learn a lot from it. Over the years, I realize that without k

    In the course of 5 years, I’ve read this book nearly 17 times. That adds up to reading it once at least every 4 months, on an average. And I still return to this book like a bark seeking a lighthouse in the dark. When I first finished it, I was so overwhelmed by how much I related to it, I read it nearly 8 times before the year ended. By now I’ve memorized almost every scene and I still can’t shake off the feeling that I still have to learn a lot from it. Over the years, I realize that without knowing it, it has become my personal Bible – a beacon to keep me from straying from the path of kindness and compassion, no matter what.

    With its baseless cruelty and what Coleridge poetically referred to as

    , the world is in need of much

    – a rugged determination to keep the world a quiet haven and not the callous, cruel place it constantly aspires to be.

    is one of those rare books that doesn’t give in to the belief that

    Not everybody is. And we must still persevere to see things from their perspective, and though we may not justify their ways, we must strive to understand them – though we might not follow them, we must try to be as kind to them as possible. And yet, there comes a time when some people need to be put down – we must follow the call of our conscience then, and yet be kind to them in the process, as much as we can.

    Striving to follow this dictum, I have realized how difficult it is to be kind to others when I find I’m right. It is so easy to put down others bluntly, it is so easy to be critical and fair, but so difficult to consider for a moment what the other might be going through. How convenient it is to dismiss the hardships of others and say, “They had it coming!” and unburden our conscience of the probable guilt that perhaps we’ve been a bit too harsh.

    How simple it is to stereotype people, classify them neatly into convenient square boxes and systematically deal with them based on those black-or-white prejudices! Robe a prejudice in the opaque, oppressive garment called

    and display boldly the seal of

    and you’ve solved the biggest difficulty of life – knowing how to treat people.

    And yet, nothing could be farther than the truth. Rarely are people so simple as they seem. In Wilde’s words,

    For you never know when a grumpy, rude, racist Mrs. Dubose might be fighting her own monsters or Ewell be, in fact trying to protect the last vestiges of honor he has, or Aunt Alexandra only trying to advocate the least painful way of life. And though we might not agree with any of them, like Atticus, we must see them for their peculiar situations and grant them a little leeway, make a little corner for them too, and yet, stand up for what is right in defiance of them.

    It is this tricky rope-walking balance between prejudice and common sense, kindness and firmness, and justice and leeway that spurs me to revisit this little book every time I seem to falter. While I find it difficult to keep my cool in the midst of flagrant injustices and ensuing pain, I strive to strike a balance between giving in to despair and becoming too optimistic; between becoming indifferent, unkind, righteous and being compassionate, considerate. It is what keeps me from becoming paranoid or cynical with the unceasing drone of passivity, callousness, overwhelming prejudice and unyielding customs while still being alive to the pain of those very people I do not necessarily agree with.

    In a country like India with its bizarre, incomprehensible equations and sequestrations of religion, class, caste, region, language, race, gender, sexuality and education, it takes a whole load of effort not to blow up one’s mind – people will kill each other over anything and everything. They’ll hate each other, isolate each other and cook up stories amongst themselves and leave it floating in the air. It takes every ounce of my energy not to hate my land and its majority people viciously.

    But you see, I’ve got so much to learn to survive here – I have to stand up for myself when there will be hordes banging upon my door telling me to shut the hell up. And I’ll have to muster all the courage I have to tell them to go f*** themselves if they think I musn’t transcend the limits set for me. But I also have to learn not to hate them. Even if it sounds silly.

    I know for one, Lee – I don’t care if you never wrote another work. I don’t care if Capote helped you write it, as many say. I’m glad somebody wrote this book, and somebody assigned this book as syllabus when I needed it the most. Five years ago, I hadn’t even heard of it. I read it in a single sitting. And then I read it several times over, taking my time, pondering over every page. I still do so. It is my favorite book ever.

  • Brina

    As I finished the timeless classic To Kill a Mockingbird, I thought to myself what can I add to a review that the 2 million or so good reads reviewers have not already pointed out. I continued to think to myself about what has made the novel so beloved and decided to focus on a character trait: courage. I read Mockingbird in ninth grade English and I remember the best essay in the class focused on courage. Now reading all these years later, I see how courage is a theme throughout the book.

    Harpe

    As I finished the timeless classic To Kill a Mockingbird, I thought to myself what can I add to a review that the 2 million or so good reads reviewers have not already pointed out. I continued to think to myself about what has made the novel so beloved and decided to focus on a character trait: courage. I read Mockingbird in ninth grade English and I remember the best essay in the class focused on courage. Now reading all these years later, I see how courage is a theme throughout the book.

    Harper Lee has integrated being courageous into most of the characters in the book starting with the main protagonists. In 1930s rural Maycomb, Alabama people were pretty much set in their way of life. Yet when the court case threatening to disrupt this life hit, the court system knew only one person had the courage to be the defense attorney: Atticus Finch. Despite having a decent chance to win, Atticus realized he had no chance because a jury would never favor a black man over a white regardless of the circumstances. Maintaining the same values at court and home, he told his children Jem and Scout to hold their heads high as rougher days would be ahead; thus, he instilled a sense of courage in his children.

    We can see courage in the children from the time they were young in this book as well. Jem, Scout, and summer friend Dill had courage to go to the Radley house trying to get Boo to come out even though all the other kids said the house is spooked. Then Scout had courage at school to stick up for her classmates and to hold her head high as the same classmates taunted her due to her father's involvement in the court case. I would also maintain that she had courage to dress like a tomboy when the town mores dictated that she behave like a lady.

    Additionally we see courage in Tom Robinson, the defendant, who most likely subconsciously realizes he can not win his case due to the color of his skin. We see courage from Mr Dolphus Raymond who lives with negroes even though he is white. We see courage from Mrs DuBose in fighting her illness, and even from lesser characters such as Reverend Sykes for allowing white children to sit in the colored balcony and Aunt Alexandra for supporting her brother even though the rest of the extended Finch family appears prejudiced against blacks. And of course we see courage from Boo Radley himself later on.

    I believe that the courage exhibited by all these characters has made the town of Maycomb, Alabama stand the test of time and remain the timeless classic that it is. Most people can relate to those who have the courage to stand up for what they think is right or to fight against those tougher than them. This character trait has endeared Scout, Jem, Atticus and company to millions.

    I probably would not have read To Kill a Mockingbird had it not been a choice in a goodreads book group I am in. I am glad I chose to participate so I can finally read the classic with adult eyes and see what has made this book beloved to millions of Americans for years past and hopefully years to come as well.

  • Catriona (LittleBookOwl)

    Beautiful book.


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