“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it..”
— Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Remember that book that comes to mind when you’re asked what you were forced to read during school? To Kill a Mockingbird would be mine. While required reading doing our education always seem horrible, the silver lining remains in everyone’s personal reading experience. It’s that ride that never seems to be identical from one person to another that makes every book a snowflake. As much as I’d love to keep the rant within me, I can’t help myself but to share a little story that has held me—and probably a hundred others—from being able to appreciate some of the most finest pieces of literature in the world at a younger age.
Being in a French education system, my English literature classes were quite peculiar. Our course syllabus’ were frivolous—to say the least—and I can’t even recall a single book that anyone wanted to take seriously. Among a couple of these books (there was probably less than five), Harper Lee’s classic is one reading experience that I’ll never forget. This book was required reading for one of our high school English literature courses, but it wasn’t the typical kind of “mandatory”. Our teacher had a copy for each of one us, and that copy was to stay inside the confines of our classroom.
Now, you might wonder how we managed to read through that book under such circumstances. Well, we didn’t. This teacher thought that making some students read the book out loud (alternating between students as little as possible, of course) would make this classic memorable. She thoroughly believed that this tactic would help us appreciate the story at hand even more, especially by stopping every few minutes to dissect a sentence. She was half right. We sure as hell did not forget about the book, especially how we never got through 50 pages of it. In fact, I remember having absolutely forgotten about the book and having never wondered about its impact in the world of literature.
I still hope to this day that this teacher has not bestoyed upon more students such an ugly fate for such a magnificent masterpice. To Kill a Mockingbird is not a novel to be ridiculed in such a fashion. Even required reading can be thoroughly enjoyed when presented properly. If you ask me, Harper Lee’s novel is one novel that every single person in the world should crack open and discover, whether its for school or not. It holds the dearest coming-of-age story of Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch and the most powerful and righteous story of Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird explores the many faces of hate, the courage to stand tall and fight in what you believe and the role of empathy in a world that desperately finds ways to reach new lows.
And so, what is To Kill a Mockingbird about? The story is told through the eyes of little Jean Louise, also known as Scout. She lives with her brother Jem and her father Atticus Finch. Atticus Finch is a reknown lawyer in the heart of Alabama, down in the South, and has quite the godly reputation among the people. It’s only until he gets the one in a million case to defend a person of color that the whole town is consciously shook and troubled. Scout, being young and innocent, has yet the experience to understand what is going around, but her constant meddling into her father’s affairs puts her on a path of understanding and discovering. The story also integrates the story of Boo Radley, a mysterious and secluded man, that no one seems to understand. Set in a small-town where everyone knows the names of each other, To Kill a Mockingbird presents us with a tragically beautiful tale of racism and prejudice, of growing up and understanding, and of doing the right thing.
The character development is exquisite in this novel. There’s nothing like watching a character evolve through various experiences and learning life lessons in their full integrity. It’s in seeing these individuals become someone genuinely different as life comes down knocking hard with all of its horrible, and sometimes wonderful surprises, that makes readers gaze through their windows in awe. The most satisfying part of these growths is being able to see it in a child. How children digest these events and learn from them is beyond beautiful. It’s in watching their innocence being molded into something substantially different that our deepest feelings are single-handedly evoked. This ability to build characters so authentic is something seldom succeeded by authors, but Harper Lee does it sensationally.
An element that I loved most of this novel is how Scout basically sees the world as Atticus Finch sees the court. Her father is a man with strong convictions and when it is time for him to stand up in front of the court and do the impossible, only a refreshing hope-in-humanity tingling feeling is felt throughout the body. His perseverance to stand tall and strong for what he believes in, even when he knows before the fight had even begun that the odds weren’t in his favor, is a phenomenonal moment and big highlight in this story. It’s when he explains his perception of the court that I saw a strong ressemblance to how innocent children see the world, and that made me embrace this book even more. Scout’s unbiased analysis and interpretation of everything in life is exactly what the world needs. Although innocence is something that can easily be lost—a theme that is very strong in this book—this way of seeing life is fundamental and necessary.
There’s so much that can be said about this classic, but there’s only one way to truly admire its beauty: reading it. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those novels that I can easily mention as a must-read by absolutely anyone and everyone. It is timeless and vibrant, no matter your interests in life. The lessons that are delivered resonate strongly and, frankly, deserves to be spread profusely throughout the world. It’s not easy to land on an author with such a unique writing style, an author who was able to build such a heart-warming story where the good in the world is put to the test. This story is without a doubt a quintessential read that will push people to look beyond the hate that engulfs humanity and seek justice for the things we believe in. It’s safe to say that To Kill a Mockingbird is a great reminder of why literature is such a vital part of our lives.