To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the instant classics of our time. It was first written by Harper Lee in 1960, and has been a staple of high school literature classes ever since, so many of you may have already read it, and those who haven’t have likely at least heard of it.
This is a book that is best read going into it blind, as a lot of the charm of the book is due to the fact that you’re discovering this through the eyes of a young girl, so I don’t want to give too much away about what this book is about (although, given the popularity of this book, you may already know a fair bit about it). Nevertheless, this book is best described as a coming-of-age novel, where we see a young girl, Scout grow up and begin to enter the real world as she encounters goodness and wickedness and has to decide where she’s going to stand on important issues. Like most coming-of-age novels, this features both a process of maturation for Scout and also a clash between her own values and the values of society.
What perhaps stands out most about the book, though, is how enjoyable it is. While the book is dealing with some really important themes, the way that Lee handles it is masterful in delivering a really strong message without letting it destroy the fun and engaging nature of her work. In many ways, this book is a great example of how literature can both teach and delight, which makes it a great book for a budding novelist to read.
Another thing worth analyzing from a fiction-writing perspective is how Scout personally handles the issues that are going to be raised in the book. Because Scout starts out the book as a child—and hence young and innocent—we have the opportunity to see the evil in the world through a child’s eyes. This unique perspective is one of the things that catapulted this book to literary greatness.
As writers looking at this, we want to consider what difference this novel takes on by being written from Scout’s point-of-view. How would the novel be different if Atticus Finch were the one narrating the book instead of Scout? Point-of-view is important, and this novel very much showcases this by example.
Lee knows how to craft great characters and a good plot, and when combined with some really good writing, all of this makes for a book that I found very difficult to put down. It is rare to find a book that so excellently blends a relevant theme with a really engaging narrative, but that’s what we find in this story. It’s that powerful combination that catapulted this book to literary greatness. And it’s that combination that thus makes it a worthy book for you to read as well.
How does the fact that this novel is written from Scout’s point-of-view change our view of the events of this book?
How would it be different if it were written from Atticus’ point-of-view?
Why do you think Lee decided to write this from Scout’s point-of-view?
Examine Atticus’ decision at the end of the book to lie about Boo. How does this fit in with everything else we know of Atticus’ decision?
Was Atticus right to do what he did? Why or why not?
Content Advisory: The book contains some language, and [spoiler] while tactfully handled, does deal with a rape trial at considerable length.