To kill a mockingbird
To kill a mockingbird. The title refers to the fact that people in the south consider it a sin to kill mockingbirds because (page 96) ' mockingsbirds do not one thing except sing their hearts out for people. They do not eat up people's garden and they do not nest in corncribs; the only thing they do is sing their hearts out '.
The first reference to this title was the fact that the editor of a newspaper in Maycomb (where the story takes place) in talking about Tom's death said that he considered it (page 245) ' a sin to kill cripples '. He considered Tom Robinson's death (a black man who has been falsely accused of raping a white girl) to be ' the senseless killing of mockingbirds by hunters and children '.
The second reference to this title was when Scout (the narrator of this story) said that to expose Boo (Mr Nathan Radley), a very shy neighbour, to the people of the town Maycomb is equivalent to ' killing a mockingbird'.
Pan Books 1974 Ltd, Cavaye Place, London in associaton with William Heinemann Ltd.. First published in Great Britain in 1960 by William Heinemann Ltd.
4th printing 1974.
Harper Lee. She won the Pullitzer Prize for writing this book. Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama in the south of the United States in 1926. She attended the local public schools and later on the University of Alabama. Before she started writing she worked iin the reservations department of an international airline. Her chief interest apart from writing are golf, music, criminology, and collecting memoirs of nineteenth-century clergynen. She lives in New York.
This book is dedicated to Mr Lee and Alice in consideration of love and affection.
The story takes place between 1930 and 1935. On the other end of the continent Hitler decared war to the rest of Europe and is persecuting jews.
In America the story takes place in the deep south, where there is still a deep mistrust of white people for coloured people and where raceprejudices are very strong. Like the editor of Maycomb wrote right after Tom Robinson's death (page 245): ' Atticus (the laywer who defended Tom and father of the narrator of this story) has used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell (the supposedly raped girl condidered to belong to a white trash family) opened her mouth and screamed '.
Place where story takes place:
The town is Maycomb. Maycomb was the county seat of Maycomb County (page 10). This means that its primary reason for existence was government (see page 134). Maycomb county is situated in the state of Alabama. (Page 134) ' In the beginning its buildings were solid, its courthouse proud, its street graciously wide. The number of professionals was high: one went there to have his teeth extracted, to deposit money, to save his soul, to have his heart listened to, his wagon fixed '.
Because the town was not situated near the only means of public transport in those days, namely the river boat Maycomb never grew. The only growth was internally, where (page 135) ' the same families married the same families until the members of the community looked faintly alike'.
The story is mostly written from the perspective of Scout Finch. At other times the
perspective is written from the all knowing perspective of the writer.
The main characters:
The main characters in this book are:
- the narrator: Scout (Jean Louise) Finch. Age between 5 to 9 years in this book. She is the sole daughter of Atticus Finch. She is quite a character: a sharp tongue, very observant as a child, very intelligent and very emotional. She would sit every evening in Atticus laps and read all that Atticus is reading at that time. Page 13 ' Scout yonder's been readin'ever since she was born, and she ain't even started to school yet'.
Scout feels more at home in her father's world than between the ladies. She said that even if men cussed, drank and smoke they were not hypocrites.
- Scout's brother: Jeremy Atticus Finch known as Jem. Jem is about 4 years older than Scout. Jem reads a lot and is very concerned with legal affairs of his father. He is courageous and can not resist a bet: he jumped from a roof once and nearly got killed by racing to Boo's house and back. In their children's imagination Boo Radley (a very shy neighbor who never goes out) represent someone to be scared of. Jem is also interested in becoming a lawyer.
- Atticus Finch: (page 11) ' He liked Maycomb, he was Maycomb County born and bred; he knew his people, they knew him '. One of his most important ancestor, Simon Finch, a methodist, who emigrated from New England and settled down at the Alabama riverbanks and became rich of the cottontrade. Atticus is related to almost every family in Maycomb and is an attorney at law in Maycomb. He is a very read man, very calm and patient and a man of principles. He does not like to show off his qualities. Married late to a woman 15 years younger, he is in his fifties in this book. He is a very patient and calm man and believes that ' everything you say in the backyard of your house you can also say in town '. So he is not a hypocrite in character (someone who talks bad of other people in secret, but in public tlaks nice of those same people). He also believes that black people are the same as white people, in his words ' just folks '. He does not believe in the fairness of man. Page 124: ' There is something in our world that makes men lose their heads. they couldn't be fair if they tried'. He is also very realistic, especially to the children. He thinks racism in the south will vanish one day, but that it will happen very slowly.
- Charles Baker Harris is known as Dill. One year older than Scout. He lives in Meridian, Mississippi. Every summer he comes to stay at his aunt, Miss Rachel.
Dill wants to marry Scout when they grow up. He is fascinated with the stories told in Maycomb about Boo Radley.
- Calpurnia: is the black cook in the family and looks after the children as the mother of Scout and Jem died when scout was only two. Calpurnia is seen as part of the family.In Scout's eyes Page 12 Calpurnia was: ' all angles and bones. She was near-sighted; she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard. She was always ordering Scout out of the kitchen, asking her why she could not behave as well as Jem knowing that Jem is older and calling Scout when she is not ready to come home.Their battles are epic and one-sided as Calpurnia always won because Atticus always took her side.
- Other important persons in the story are: Miss Maudie who loves flowers and children more than adults; Miss Stephanie who spreads gossip and likes to comment on people; Miss Rachel, Dill's aunt and aunt Alexdra, Scout's aunt..
- Tom Robinson: who is brought to trial by the false accusations of a girl named Mayella Ewell. He is a very humble, hardworking Christian black man and is crippled since he was a young boy at his left arm. His arm is useless when it got stuck in a cottonmachine. He has a wife and five children and a cottage near the Ewell's;
- The Ewells: The Ewells are white trash who never worked an honest day in their lives and who live like pigs on the outer parts of Maycomb.
Personal view on the story:
The story is written with a very humouristic touch and very fresh perspective (that of a five year old child) on affairs and people in Maycomb. When you finish the book you kind of miss the characters.
The story has a very deep meaning to it. It shows how in the deep south of America in the 1930's hypocrisy about being a democratic state and hidden racism and prejudices play an important role and can divide a quiet little town like Maycomb. For during the trial of Tom Robinson most of the people of Maycomb talked bad of Atticus because he was ' defending a negro '.Their children also give Scout and Jem a hard time for it.
Scout tells of her own teacher who told them ofthe terrible undemocratic acts Hitler is doing to jews and what this teacher comments to Miss Stephanie after the trial: (page 251) ' ..it's time somebody taught them a lesson, they were getting way above themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us..'.
All in all a very good book and I enjoyed it very much!
The story tells about two children, Scout aged five at the beginning of the story and Jem Finch, who is five years older. They live with their father Atticus, who is an attorney at law and the black cook, Calpurnia. They live in aquiet town in the state of Alabama named Maycomb.
The story in this book begins with the children Finch and Dill trying to bring Boo Radley out of the house. As Boo is considered the town's freak and the whole family Radley lives very much as recluses the children fantasize about confronting and bringing out Boo Radley.
The story takes another turn when Atticus is named as the lawyer of Tom Robinson.
Mayella Ewell, daughter of Bob Ewell, accused Tom Robinson of having beaten and raped her. Atticus showed that what happened was that Mayella was a lonesome girl who had no friends. She had to work very hard to keep the family Ewell going. The Ewell family was a large one with seven little children, a drunk of a father and no mother. The Ewells were very poor, lived tthe town's dump lived and were on wellfare. She sent the little children one day to town to buy icecream and asked Tom Robinson inside. Tom, who had pity with her had done different little chores for her in the past. This time as tom was passing along the Ewell's house she called him inside the house to look at a door. As he entered she tried to embrace him, but he resisted and was very afraid. Then Bob Ewell showed at the window and at that moment when she saw her father she began screaming that Tom was raping her.
Atticus said that Mayella wanted sex with Tom and when she saw that she would have no chance for this, she started screaming and accusing Tom. She was according to Atticus beaten by her dad and not by Tom. Tom could never had beaten her with a cripple arm. Atticus gave a very good defence, but still the jury found Tom guilty and convicted him. They said: ' why did he ran away if he was innocent'? Tom said ' put yourself in my shoes, if you were a black man near a screaming white female, what would you have done ? I was afraid.Afraid of being accused of what I have not done '.
Tom became very desperate and believed that he will never come free. Atticus said he would take the case to higher courts and there Tom would possibly be freed of the accusations. But Tom during recess in plain view of everybody climbed over the jailfence and was shooted down.
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