The novel is about two children, Jem and Scout Finch, living in a fictional southern U.S town, Maycomb, trying to understand the world, through their principled father Atticus Finch and the events that affect them and their neighborhood. The town is steeped in racial and other prejudices. Atticus is a lawyer while most of the neighborhood is made of farmers. All is well till Atticus takes up a case to defend an innocent, black man –Tom Robinson, who has been falsely accused of raping a white girl. Much to the children’s surprise and shock, they along with their father, are forced to face sudden hostility from their neighbors and friends as their father solely tries to defend a black man. Whether their father wins or loses the case, regains the good opinion of the town, and what the children learn (or more importantly, unlearn and relearn) from the events and the repercussions form the rest of the story.
The book is set in the 1930’s, the Great Depression period, affecting southern America. Most of the characters are poor and uneducated farmers. Atticus and his children are comparatively well off and well educated.
The novel is narrated in first person from the point of view of Scout Finch as she recalls the events that happen when she is six years old and three years from there on. But the events are narrated plainly from the eyes of a six year old instead of being clouded with an imposing adult’s interpretations on these events. This makes the book subtly warm and endearing to the reader.
This book personally appealed to me mainly with subtle humour, brought in by the gap between the child’s understanding of what happens and what actually happens. As Jostein Gaarder comments in his book, Sophie’s World, as we grow up, we start losing an amazing faculty bestowed to us as children – the ability to wonder, which is predominant in childhood. Scout Finch is one such child trying to understand and grapple with the events, the experiences and the prejudices (mainly, on Arthur “Boo” Radley- a recluse misunderstood as a deranged murderer and Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a white girl) that are associated with such events. But her questions on the same do more than just reflect her wonder. It makes us question our own set of beliefs and prejudices we carry in our minds and rethink and reflect on them. Just as we get used to the world as grown ups we also lose our ability to empathize with other’s ordeals and problems. This is quite evident, when Jem Finch, still a child, cries at the injustice being done to Tom Robinson (in stark difference to the callousness of the adult neighborhood,) who is pronounced guilty by the court in spite of his proven innocence. As Atticus remarks: “they (the jury)‘ve done it again, and they did it tonight, and they ‘ll do it again and when they do it – seems that only children weep..”
Book Reviewed By Pavithra Manoharan
Did you read this book too? Got an opinion on it? Share it!