To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee's Novel of Integrity and Duty in the Face of Intolerance and Injustice
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, ins...moreTo Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee's Novel of Integrity and Duty in the Face of Intolerance and Injustice
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.-- Atticus Finch”
Harper Lee, born 1926, 86
When Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960 a few well known Southern authors had a few tart things to say about it. Carson McCullers, whose Franky was compared to Scout said Harper Lee had been "poaching on her literary preserves." Flannery O'Connor said the novel was fine, as far as it went if people realized they were reading a book for children.
But Harper Lee's only known novel was an immediate phenomenon. Today it is read by more people around the world than the Bible. That's saying something.
I am hesitant to attempt a review of this book. How much more can be said of it than has already been said. In all humility I can only say that I have loved this book for years. A goodreads friend asked me how many times I had read it. I replied in my Grandmother's words, "Eleventy-Seven." Loosely translated that means a lot--even more than a month of Sunday's.
I will not attempt to present a plot summary. There are few who don't know the story. It's only necessary to remind each other that it still remains a sin to kill a mockingbird. Atticus said so. And Miss Maudie reminds us that all mockingbirds do is sing their hearts out for us all the day long. They do us no harm. They are the innocents among us. They are due to be protected. As long as Tom Robinsons and Boo Radleys exist in this world there will always be a niche necessarily filled by To Kill a Mockingbird.
"Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em. But remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.
To Kill a Mockingbird is especially dear to lawyers. Atticus Finch is the epitome of integrity in a profession often maligned by the public, sometimes rightly so on the basis of notorious incidents of failure to follow the rules of professional conduct. Over the years I was actively engaged in the practice of law, I returned time after time to this perfect novel as a reminder that it was my job to do the right thing and not just go for the win. It has seen me through difficult cases more than once.
Atticus defends Tom Robinson
Truthfully, I do not know the exact number of times I have read this perfect book. I know I have now passed a dozen times. Doubtless, in the years I have remaining, I will return to it again.
Why does To Kill a Mockingbird continue to sell so well? Why has it never been out of print? I can only hope that there are far more Jems and Scouts aspiring to become Atticus Finch. And we will always have a need for him and those who strive to follow his philosophy. It is not easy following in the footsteps of such a man. It takes a sense of duty, sacrifice, and responsibility for the innocents of this world. It takes courage. None of those characteristics ever go out of style.
“They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.” --Atticus Finch
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