To kill a Mockingbird is a 1960 novel by Harper Lee. The book appeared right at the moment of the growing civil rights movement and immediately became successful, attracting controversy. The plot, as well as the characters of the story, is loosely based on Harper Lee’s observations of her own family and neighbors. In spite of the fact that much of the background for To kill a Mockingbird came from Harper Lee’s childhood experiences, the plot is primarily drawn from the author’s imagination. The novel wins the hearts of its readers with its simplicity, humor and warmth, however, at the same time it makes the readers think about such serious issues as racial inequality and rape among others.
The primary themes of Harper Lee’s novel are such important themes as the destruction of innocence and racial injustices. However, To kill a Mockingbird involves issues of gender roles, class, courage, and compassion in the American Deep South. The novel fosters tolerance and decries prejudice.
Harper Lee’s book explores the moral nature of people - that is, what makes a person good or evil. The author approaches this question through dramatization of the transition of Scout and Jem from a perspective of childhood innocence, while they were good as they have never seen what is evil, to the perspective of adults, when they have met evil and must include it into their new understanding of the world.
Harper Lee raises a question of how children are taught to make their movement from innocence to adulthood. However, To kill a Mockingbird proclaims that not everybody is ready for this transition from innocence to experience of knowing what is hatred, ignorance, and prejudice. This is shown by the author through Tom Robinson and Boo Radley who were not prepared to encounter evil, and, were destroyed, as a result. Richard McRoberts adds, “The fictional trial and shooting of Tom Robinson is a painful reminder of the real life persecution and murder of African Americans (negroes and blacks) over several centuries” (6).
Atticus Finch is a moral voice of To Kill a Mockingbird. He is the one who has experienced and comprehended what is evil, maintaining his faith in the capacity for goodness of a human. Atticus Finch understands that people are not the creatures of good or evil only, they have both bad and good qualities. Through this character, Harper Lee calls her readers to appreciate the good values and try to understand the bad ones. Andrew Haggerty argues,
If Atticus Finch embodies the moral values that Lee intends her novel to champion. These values are primarily expressed through his defense of Tom Robinson, doomed to be found guilty of a crime he did not commit because he is black and his accuser is white. How one judges Atticus’s failed defense of Tom against the pervasive and sickening racism of the society Lee so vividly depicts, is ultimately how one judge the novel (47).
From the moral lesson to Scout and Jem, the author tries to show that people should live with conscience with keeping hope and without becoming cynical. Throughout the novel Atticus Finch teaches Scout and the readers of the novel to view the world from the perspective of forgiveness and understanding.
To Kill a Mockingbird is full of simplicity, humor and warmth, but at the same time, the novel touches such serious themes as racial inequality, rape, gender roles, class, courage, and compassion. Through the characters of the novel, Harper Lee tries to raise such important questions as movement from innocence to adulthood of children and what makes a person good or evil. To kill a Mockingbird teaches people to be good and to try to understand each other instead of judging subjectively.