"I wanted you to see what real courage is....."

Ah! The pleasure of reading a good book. There are books and then there are books. Of those that I have read, there have been a few which I simply had to finish once I had started - Freedom at Midnight, O Jerusalem, Shantaram. Without doubt, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' belongs to that list along with many other lists, the Pulitzer Prize of 1961 being just one of them. For the record, Harper Lee received the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year(2007).

To Kill a Mockingbird is Lee's only published book and I think I can see why. It is very difficult to write a book as good as this one. My opinion is corroborated by the fact that Lee started writing a couple of books but did not publish them since she was not satisfied. A movie based on the book was released the very next year after it was published and is deservedly considered a classic.

Lee explores the America of 1930s by creating a microcosm called Maycomb and exploring it through the eyes of young Jean Lousie, lovingly called Scout. A wide range of subjects are touched upon. The prejudice held by whites against their colored fellow-citizens; Ladies' preoccupation with ensuring that other ladies behave in a lady-like manner; A few upright men and women who live in the same society but rarely meet with success in their endeavours to bring about change and justice. The innocence of children who do not hold any prejudices on the basis of color or social rank but on the basis of smell and looks.

Centered around Atticus Finch - Scout's father, Jeremy Finch, Scout's brother and Scout herself, the novel's main story lines are the mystery of Arthur Boo Radley, who seldom comes out of his house and Tom Robinson, a black man who has been wrongly accused of raping a white women.

Atticus is protrayed as the "Raymond Man" - the complete man. He is a liberal father and reasons with his children rather than asking them to follow his orders without questioning. He gives both his children their space. He is a principled lawyer who fights Tom Robinson "nigger's" case tooth and nail. A case which he loses, a case he was expecting to lose. It is heart-breaking to see the jury pronounce Robinson guilty on the basis of circumstantial evidence and despite the light of evidence to the contrary. Though, it displays the white man's deep rooted prejudice against the blacks.

Jeremy is in the process of growing up - trying to realize his calling and getting answers to seemingly simple things that are going wrong in the world. Scout, precociously intelligent, provides a novel and refreshing take at things.

A few gems in the book that you should look forward to: Atticus' concluding speech in defense of Robinson, Lee's criticism of the hypocrisy the ladies (not necessarily of the 30s) exhibit - during Aunt Alexandra's missionary meeting, a lady who oozes with sympathy for the low people is unable to understand why they do not accept white people as their savior, Scout's teacher goes red with rage when Hitler is mentioned but is overheard deriding the blacks and angry that blacks have the galls to consider themselves at par with whites -, Miss Maudie's insistence that there indeed are good people left in Maycomb though they may not be more than a handful. I really like the way she proves her point.

My favourite part- Atticus' word to Jeremy on courage.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what". The context in which Atticus says this is equally inspiring.

One of my best reads in recent times. Looking forward to watching the movie tonight.


  1. to kill a mockingbird is an amazing read..i agree 100%. but i would also say freedom at midnight was equally amazing in its own enlightening way. thanks for your support for my blog..apreciate your comments. dhaval

  2. Yup I agree and that is why Freedom @ Midnight figures in that list of mine :-)