Harper Lee is the author of one novel. This fate has characterized only few writers in world literature. However, this story can be associated with the name of Harper Lee. She entered into the literature of the second half of the 20th century along with the names of the writers of the American South and occupied a special place. A book To Kill a Mockingbird is considered a classic of modern American literature. According to the results of one survey, this novel was chosen the best book of the past 20th century. The author is a well-known American writer. To Kill a Mockingbird has brought the worldwide fame its creator who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. This novel was published July 11, 1960. It was translated into 50 languages. Nowadays, the novel still remains a bestseller. Nevertheless, the literature fame influenced Lee in a strange way. She stopped writing. Thus, this was her first and last novel (Mills, 2011).
In the novel, the events took place in a provincial town Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. It was the period of the Great Depression. The book shows the basic social groups: wealthy landowners, black men, descendants of planters working for them, who are successful or distressed but still retain manners and claims of the poor. There are also permanent figures of provincial America in the text of the novel: a judge, a sheriff, a teacher, a doctor, and a lawyer. They represent spiritual and temporal power, the spirit and law of stability. Nonetheless, all of them are exposed to the traditional racial and social prejudices as well as all other inhabitants of Maycomb. Describing the remote province with picturesque surroundings, habits, customs and beliefs, the author skillfully characterizes the life of the American South as a whole. Maycomb is an old little town, where it is always very hot and all people know each other. A novel largely reflects the traditional way of life of the American town in Alabama where the writer was born. Trying to transform the “inside” of that environment, Harper Lee introduces the reader the current social conditions associated with slavery in America (Bloom, 2010).
In the book, the writer uses an interesting method. The world of adults is shown through the eyes of a child. The narrative of the book is on behalf of a little girl, Jean-Louise Finch. At the beginning of the story, she is 6 years old, and at the end, she is 9. Everyone calls her Scout. The nickname was invented extremely well. Jean Louise really sees everything. Besides, even if there is something she cannot explain, she still sees all the details, so that later, after becoming an adult woman, she will tell the readers about them. The main characters of the book are the Finches: Atticus Finch and his children – Jean Louise and Jim. His wife died when Scout was two years old. In summer, a seven–year-old nephew Dill comes to the Finches’ neighbor. He is a big inventor, who immediately becomes a friend of Jim and Jean-Louise. The company of three children goes through various adventures (Mills, 2011).
The trial over a black man, Tom Robinson, because of which people are divided into white and black and hence into good and bad by prevailing foundations, represents a turning point in the novel. Emotional experiences of young children of a well-known local lawyer Atticus Finch watching the process subtly convey the author’s relationship to the reality. Everyone knew that the case is doomed. Atticus Finch also knew it. Yet, the overwhelming sense of duty, honor and a keen sense of justice forced the lawyer to take the case. Unhappy Robinson dies while trying to escape. However, there is a cautionary thought of the writer in the novel that evil is a rare exception, and the world consists of good. On this plot, psychological problems of the growing up girl are filled, who gradually realizes that the world around her is not as happy as it seemed. Neighbors and even friends do not fit into the usual scheme imposed by the southern society, and Scout has to learn from her father what a compromise is. Almost all the inhabitants of Maycomb experience traditional biases and racial prejudices. In this way, the book To Kill a Mockingbird is primarily a novel about the formation of the human person (Mills, 2011).
Having learned the lessons of Mark Twain, who said that children are “the cleanest and most consistent democrats”, Harper Lee finds her way that allows depicting the world of adults through the eyes of a child without simplifying and impoverishing it. Not in vain, the author puts a little girl in the center of the narrative, who provoking adults on statements and actions, acquires lessons of philosophy and morality. The world through the eyes of a child is divided into the world of good and evil. Any penetration into the world of adults and knowledge that a child receives observing the behavior of adults can destroy or strengthen the desire to good. In this regard, it is not difficult to distinguish two storylines in the novel. One of them is childish, which is the background of the work as the whole story is on behalf of a little girl but through the memories of thirty-year-old Jean Louise Finch. Another line is adult, which likely reflects the tragic side of the whole population of Maycomb. It is associated with the trial over Tom Robinson (Bloom, 2010).
Of course, the world that is seen through the eyes of the child has, on the one hand, its charm and unique color with a share of immediacy, but on the other hand – understanding of the life remains at the level of child’s experience. However, the fact that this story is written in the form of story-memories of an adult woman allows the readers evaluate the actions, thoughts and representations with respect to the distant past. Logically and naturally, in the conversations, intonations are interlaced that transmit knowledge and experience of an adult woman (Bloom, 2010).
“Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles them” (Lee, 1970, p.175) as Atticus Finch has said. In the novel, he occupies a position of a good man and a fighter for justice. The perfection with which Harper Lee draws an image of Atticus more or less is realized through the framework of family relationships. Outside these boundaries, everything is much more complicated. Atticus Finch teaches children to find compromises and to undertake “a lost cause”: “Do you know what a compromise is? It is an agreement reached by mutual consent” (Lee, 1970, p.30). Nevertheless, besides ideals, there is also bitter reality. Atticus is powerless against the social evil. Faced with the adult world outside the home, Scout and Jim begin to understand that all people are different (Mills, 2011).
An important role in the plot of the story takes Boo Radley, who never leaves the house thereby provoking the imagination of children. This whole story is described by the author as a kind of a game, which involves only children. Hook or by crook, they try to rescue the mentally ill man from his house, whom the whole district was afraid of. This house shrouded in legend was avoided by all the villagers. Harper Lee determines the degree of ignorance of the total population of Maycomb that relies on wild superstitions and misconceptions. Later, Jim has noticed that the reason why Boo Radley sits locked up all the time is that he just does not want to go to people. At the end of the novel, Boo Radley saves Scout and Jim from the murderer (Mills, 2011).
The entire narrative of the novel is laid in three years. At the beginning, there is a little six-year-old child. At the end, readers witness the nine-year mature girl who has learned something about life. However, one thing she has learned for sure. Atticus was right saying that one can know a person only getting in his or her skin and resemble in it. Against this background, there is a certain convergence of two worlds – “childish” and “adult.” Harper Lee masterfully solves this task connecting two points of view of the story that gain an absolute unity by the end of the novel. The writer, on a basis of the belief that all people are naturally good, with Atticus Finch’s words says, “Almost all people are good when they finally understand” (Mills, 2011).
To Kill a Mockingbird is a story of pure and simple love by the definition of Harper Lee. This is a story about three years of life in a small town Maycomb, Alabama, about how children become adults recognizing the brutal world, in which they will live, and gaining its harsh laws. Good and evil, parental love, injustice, anxiety and joy – everything is intricately rotated. Scout and her brother Jim find themselves in the middle of all events. Nonetheless, the price of fairness will be too high for them. Because of the beauty of the song, the mockingbird has earned the name of the native bird of Texas. However, in Alabama, where the events of the novel took place, it is considered a sin to kill an innocent songbird. This is the same thing that hurt a child by taking away faith in the idyllic world of adults, where there is good and the true wins. The book To Kill a Mockingbird is about this. Its eternal theme is initiation and discovery of evil. In essence, it is the plot of a fairy tale.