Boekverslag : Harper Lee - To Kill A Mocking Bird
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To kill a mocking bird – Harper Lee

The book has been written by Nelle Harper Lee. She was born in Monroeville, Alabama in 1926. The book was published by Mandarin paperbacks in 1990 in London.

The author has also written several essays, for example: ‘Christmas to me’ and ‘Love- In other words”. She became the first female winner of the Pulitzer Prize with ‘To kill a mocking bird’.

I do not believe Harper Lee belongs to any specific literary movement.

The main theme is racial prejudice. The book is about the struggle for equality between black and white. Another important theme is the growing awareness of this issue by the children.

A short summary.

The story is about 2 children, Scout and Jem Finch, who live with their father, Atticus Finch, and their nanny, Calpurnia, in a village called Maycomb.

Close to the house of Scout and Jem was the house of the Radley family. Everybody thought there was a boy in that house called Arthur, who hadn’t been outside for 23 years. His nickname was Boo, because it was said that he went outside at night and peek into people’s houses through the window. Scout and Jem were both afraid of Boo and often dared each other and their friend Dill to go up to the front door of the Radley house.

Suddenly Scouts and Jems peaceful lives change after the following incident. Atticus had to defend a black man called Tom Robinson. He was convicted of raping a white girl called Mayella Ewell. From then on Jem, Scout and Atticus were not respected any more and Scout was often told that her father was a niggerlover. Scout and Jem could cope with this in the beginning, but after a while they were getting more furious at those people.

Because their father is so busy with the trial, their Aunt Alexandra comes to look after Scout and Jem. She wants to change them into perfect children but doesn’t really succeed. Jem and Dill play often together, not wanting Scout to join them, so she starts visiting Miss Maudie, a neighbour.

Scout and Jem were not allowed to go to the trial by their father, but they secretly did. Before the trial was opened it was unfair already: the whole jury was white and men had tried to blackmail Atticus. When the trial was opened it became very clear that Tom was innocent, and that Mayella’s father was the one who had beaten her. ‘Surprisingly’ Atticus lost the case. Than Tom tried to escape, but was shot dead by the guards.

The father of Mayella hated Atticus for what he had said about him in court. He threatened Atticus and finally attacked Scout and Jem when they walked home from a schoolperformance at night. Just before he was going to hit Scout Boo appeared and helped the children escaping. The next morning Mr. Ewell was found dead with a knife between his ribs. Everyone thought it was suicide and Atticus thought it was Jem, but finally they discovered that Boo had saved the children. Now that Scout and Jem found out who Boo really was and he turned out not to be as weird as they thought they weren’t scared of him anymore.

The main characters are Scout and Jem, Atticus and Tom Robinson.

They are mostly round characters, they go through a lot of development. Scout becomes less childish and wiser during the book. Jem also becomes maturer throughout the book: he begins to understand the whole situation of discrimination in Maycomb.

Atticus goes through less development than the children, but you can see that the case is really affecting him too, and he plays a main part as father of Scout and Jem, but as defender of Tom too.

Tom is a flat character: we don’t really get to know a lot about him, and he isn’t changing during the book. But he’s really important because his case affects the lives of Atticus, Scout and Jem very strong.

Other important characters are:

Dill (Scout’s and Jem’s friend) Calpurnia (the Negro cook)

Bob Ewell (Mayella’s father) Mayella Ewell (the raped girl)

Aunt Alexandra (Atticus’ sister) Arthur (Boo) Radley (the ‘weird’ man)

The story takes place in the state of Alabama, in the south of the USA in the 1930’s. (In the southern states the racial prejudice has always been stronger than in the north). The story is situated in a small village, called Maycomb, where all kinds of classes are living (black and white).

The book is (of course) a novel. I think it is a psychological novel, because it deals with the mind of a young girl (Scout) and her reactions to the events in the book (in particular those concerning Boo Radley and the Tom Robinson case).

The style of the author is not very difficult, except for the fact that she uses a lot of old fashioned American slang words. She really uses the town-dialect every now and then.

In the first part of the book the author uses a lot of description to give us an idea about Maycomb and the main characters. The book also contains dialogue, for example when the children speak together, or when Atticus talks to the children.

The whole book has been written through the eyes of Scout, that’s why you sometimes find some childish lines in the book, however the story isn’t always told as Scout experiences it. Sometimes the author tells us things Scout doesn’t know, so there also is a sort of omniscient narrator.

The story is completely chronological, and if there were any flashbacks, I can’t remember them any more and they were not important to the story!

I do not think this is a very difficult book. I found it a nice story to read: it was funny to know how Scout experienced all the events and during my reading I got curious how the Tom Robinson case would end, and what the story was about Boo Radley. Although I never really got bored during my reading, I can’t say this book is one of my favourites: it is a bit too simple and it does not contain a very spectacular theme, the theme doesn’t really interest me!

I liked the characters of the children, because they were very honest. I also liked Atticus, because he has such a strong personality, and of course I also sympathised with Tom Robinson, who was falsely accused, and even murdered because of the incident.

The character of Boo Radley also interested me, because he was really vague throughout the book, but in the end you get to know he is a good person.

I didn’t like Mayella and Mr. Ewell for their weakness and lying and devastating another man’s life with their lies!
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