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To kill a Mockingbird May 18, 2009

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Book Reviews, Classics.
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to kill a mockingbird

A perfect blend of innocence and maturity – this book is a fascinating fable of human attitudes and perceptions, narrated though the ingenuous eyes of an eight year old girl. With masterful strokes, Harper Lee paints a vivid picture of a small town in Alabama at a time when racial prejudice and apartheid were burning issues in the United States. The fabric of the novel is strikingly believable and authentic, probably derived from the author’s own experiences as she attended local schools in Alabama.

The story begins with the merry adventures of eight year old Scout and her twelve year old brother Jem. You begin to get completely engaged in their childhood gambles and escapades, and how the siblings discover the attitudes and realities of the society around them. With a brilliant wit, the author describes how these kids build imaginary worlds, recreate weird stories about the townspeople enacting them, and react to the prejudices and racist mentalities of their town. They are strongly protective of their father, who is a white criminal lawyer in the town court and also a single parent. He is fighting a case for a black man who has been falsely accused by the testimony of a white girl, and here the story begins to get  darker as the details of his struggle trickle in.

Reading ahead, you get to see a long and tortuous courtroom scene, when one man struggles in a bitter fight for equality and justice for all mankind – irrespective of race or colour. At a time when it is unthinkable for a black man to win over a white man’s verdict in the court, he exhorts the Judge and the Jurymen – “In the name of God, do your duty!” . In spite of his efforts, once again the unspoken rules stay unbroken. The court pronounces the defendant “Guilty”. The young kids, who have been watching the trial unbeknownst to their father, are devastated. All they can do is to feel cheated by a society that “ain’t fair”!!

This book is a rare gem, leaving a lasting impression after you read it. It traces the trajectory of human thoughts right from innocent childhood, and the loss of this innocence to the so called “worldly wisdom”. It is witty, funny, emotional and sensitive, and demonstrates that even people in the toughest professions can have the gentlest of hearts.

Quoting from the first page of the paperback –

“Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.”

                – CHARLES LAMB

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