Rishi's Reviews > To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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Aug 05, 07

Recommended for: no one
Read in December, 1996

** spoiler alert ** A friend of mine once commented that To Kill a Mockingbird was the most racist book he'd ever read.

I agree with him. Now, I know this book is drawn from the author's true experiences, but she choose to write a novel and thus I will judge it as a novel. With it's irrevocable integration into the American (and Canadian) public school curricula, I think this novel has probably done more to perpetuate racial stereotypes than any other single force.

If I had to sum up To Kill a Mockingbird in one sentence, this would be it: the poor helpless black man is lost until a saintly white man comes to his side to crusade for his cause. Unfortunately, the damn darkie is so stupid that he goes and gets himself killed just when the white man figured he had another shot at clearing him. Oh well, the white man tried his best, and for a negro too! What a hero.

What the hell is that?
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 67) (67 new)


Alex Wow.
I think you completely missed the point.


Annie Tang I was about to write the same comment to your review - I think you completely missed the point.


Alex Yes...I don't think the point was that Atticus was able to "help" Tom Robinson...the point was that, despite Atticus' brilliance, our society was based on such twisted principles that justice proved all but impossible.

I don't think that this was any kind of excuse or apology for 20th century American society, but rather, an indictment.


message 4: by Al (new) - rated it 5 stars

Al Rishi, it's right there in the title.


Wiredwithcoffee wow. i agree with alex up there.

ok christian soldier, why dont you take in account the time period that this was written in and then shove it up ur ass you ignorant book burner


message 6: by MT (new)

MT Rishi, it seems that you may have read this book with the same type of ignorance it's meant to repudiate.


Jenn ok, i liked the review, but maybe u did harp a lil too much on the racism part.

p.s. if anyone wants to read a review of this book that isnt 'omg i loved it, it was great' and isnt 'it was totally racist', then read mine!lol


message 8: by Anna (last edited Jan 20, 2009 09:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna This would be my one sentence summery: Despite the smart, unbiased lawyers brilliant and logical arguments the racism of the 1930's population won out and the scared, most likely poorly educated African-American took what he saw as the only (and probably was his best) option and got shot trying to make a run for it leaving another bloody mark on black-white relations and teaching a young girl not to be prejudice in the process. Kind of run-on but that's what I got from it. I guess you see what you want to see.


Justin "I think this novel has probably done more to perpetuate racial stereotypes than any other single force."

Seriously? You don't get out much, do you?


Ashlyn H And you are calling Harper Lee the racist one...


message 11: by Beck (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beck Are you kidding me? Like others said, you totally missed the point. There is so much I could say here but I'm not even go on because if you thought that To Kill A Mockingbird is racist than you probably won't get much out of all of the points I could use to argue against you.


message 12: by Emily (new)

Emily M you have completely by a long shot missed the point, I don't think I really want to go into why this is such a horrible review. Did you not have social studies in third grade? Because that is when we learned about racism in that time period. How is this book racist when it is just portraying racism? The main characters where not racist, it was the rest of the town.


Helena The point of the book wasn't to be racist. it was to show the cruelty of racism in the south in the 1930s.


Layla Wow, Alex is right; you totally missed the point of this story...

If you know your history then you should know that people at that time would have sent a 'negro' to prison almost without a trial.

The purpose of Atticus was to show a contrast of the same people (whites) with different beliefs. He was there to defend a black man instead of being thick headed like some of the other white people.

What could the other black people do to defend their kind? Nothing, the white jury would have cared less; Atticus was a white person, and the white jury would have at least thought about a white man's point.

This book's purpose (as Helena said) was to show the unfairness of racism during this period of time.


message 15: by Drattler (new) - added it

Drattler I think the Kill a Marking Bird was a wonderful book. It showed a time in american history when only a few brave men and women stood up to the unjust and tried to speek out for a people at that time that had no voice. I think now the question is are there any left like Atticus today?


Andrew This review completely is missing the point! Wow


Chase Mattingly Your an idiot.


Heather I see that you read this book in 1996. Let me ask.... was that when you were in high school? From my experience as an English teacher, most teens don't "get" TKAM. I am sorry to tell you this, but you totally didn't get it. In fact, you COMPLETELY missed the point. Try reading it again with a little more life experience under your belt. Maybe that will make a difference... if not, sorry, you are really missing out!


message 19: by Jenn (last edited May 18, 2010 01:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jenn I read TKMB in high school but don't remember much about it. I do remember not liking it, mainly because the children were the stereotyped innocent kind whose behavior hardly reflects the behavior of actual children. I don't recall thinking the book was racist, although if your summary of the plot is accurate, I can see why you and others would think that it is. I plan to read TKMB again in the near future to see if my perspective has changed, and when I do I'll keep your review in mind. Thanks for posting it.


message 20: by Gin (last edited May 31, 2010 01:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gin It seems to me like you're willingly deluding yourself to think this way for the sake of saying something sensational. Yes, Tom Robinson escaped from jail and got himself killed. Why? Because he decided to take his life into his own hands! Some might say that's a pretty understandable thing to do, considering his bleak future and the biased justice system of the time.

Are you quite sure that you don't think To Kill a Mockingbird portrays the "damn darkie" as "so stupid" because you are projecting your own racist views onto the plot?


Larry McCloskey Like so many here have pointed out, you're making the mistake of reading it with a 21st century perspective. You're missing the basic difference between a book about racism and a racist book.

The fact is that in the 1930s, in Alabama, it very much was a case of riding to the defense of Tom Robinson. Look at what happened to Atticus and his family because of that decision. Atticus was pretty well respected about town and as soon as he decided to help Tom, he and his children were outcast (or worse) and even Tom was forced to accept that there was no hope for him.


message 22: by Andy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Andy You dislike the racism in the book so much that you use racist words in your review? That certainly makes sense. I must echo those who say you've missed the point of the book. And you specifically miss the point of Tom's death. Do you really think Atticus was going to be able to help him? Atticus was in denial. And I personally am suspicious of the account of Tom's death. I do think Harper Lee intended the story of his death to be the truth, but if this happened in real life I would suspect that the guards forced him to run just so they could shoot him in the back.


Daniela You have this all wrong. Try reading the book again - and paying attention. You have completely missed the point of it.


William WHAT! WHAT! ok, i am black, but i still loved this book, you cannot call a book racist if it took place in a racist society and the protagonist is taking a stand against racism. plus, back then it was much worse in real life.


message 25: by Lara (last edited Aug 02, 2010 09:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lara The most racist novel ever? Really? REALLY? So, To Kill a Mockingbird is more racist than...The Clansman by Thomas Dixon (or any of his stuff, for that matter)? Worse than Confederate propaganda? Worse than Mein Kampf? Worse than "White Man's Burden" by Kipling? Give me a break.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

For what it's worth, I agree.


Iben ... yeah thanks for spoiling the book. Haven't read it yet and now I guess with your comment I know what's going to happen


message 28: by Eric (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Troy Yeah you definitely just didn't get it.


Jolie "A friend of mine once commented that To Kill a Mockingbird was the most racist book he'd ever read.'"
I'm assuming you were the "friend" you speak of... I can't believe TWO people are that ignorant,one's hard enough to believe.
Really if that is your opinion you must be too young minded to get the very simple point of this book...maybe you should consider book's like the pokey little puppy?wait that maight be too racists as well....


message 30: by Vic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Vic How old are you? While this is a novel(and beautifully written, at that), this captures a piece of history in the relationships between the races in the southern U.S. Just because it's not pretty to look at, doesn't mean it didn't happen.


Katamwilliams I think we read a different novel because if TKAM is anything it's anti-racist


Polly Blythen This has got to be the stupidest thing I've ever read. You've completely missed the point of the novel. Clearly you were looking for a novel where the black man saves himself without any help from white people. Unfortunately for you, this book is historically accurate. Also, Tom Robinson doesn't 'go and get himself killed' as you've said. There was no chance he could have won the appeal so he decided to take a chance and possibly die on his own terms rather than being killed for a crime he didn't commit. Urgh, you're so ignorant.


Henry Bellamy Stop it! Rishi obviously has his own opinion about this book, so STOP BASHING HIM ABOUT IT. If you think he didn't get the point, that's fine, but FREAKING KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. One person can say that, we don't need 20,000,000 people saying the EXACT SAME THING.


Patti Lehrman You did totally miss the point of this novel. Yes, there are racist comments and stereotypes, but the book takes place in the1930's. Racism was the rabid dog we see later in the novel: have you heard of symbolism? This novel is the greatest American novel of the 20th century... To say it's a racist novel is to miss Harper lee's entire point. Take a class.


Elaine Well, to be fair, black lawyers weren't exactly allowed in white courts at the time, so a white lawer representing Tom would PROBABLY be the better choice? :)


Pinkie You're so stupid. I suppose the book was too difficult to understand for you. Go pick up Twilight; I'm sure you'll be able to understand that book. After all, it's just a dumb girl choosing between a dead person and a dog.


message 37: by Kika (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kika Good books are not meant to be literally read... Get perspective...


Aleyna Oh dear God. I read this for the first time in ninth grade, when I thought books like To Kill a Mockingbird were difficult to read, and even I got the point of it. This book was written during the 60's when racism was alive and thriving. This book portrays a white man who is willing to help a black man. A white man who is willing to give up his good reputation for a poor, crippled black man.

And what's really funny to me is that you called Tom Robinson a "damn darkie," and you're calling someone else racist. Way to go.


Jeremy So, for the idea of the novel to work now...we'd need someone to step in and defend Rishi...against you guys?


Marife Rishi, I think the criticism would be fit for a novel set in the South in 2011. However, it was set during a time when there would not have even been, for example, black lawyers. Having a white man defend a black man was the only possible situation. As the others said, it's not about the inherent stupidity of a black man. It is about how racism is an oppressive, unjust force in society.


message 41: by Maia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maia B. Right. You don't get it at all. You haven't even written a good review! You just don't get it.

Poor, poor you.


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Evaluated I bet you don't even know the meaning of the title.


message 43: by Jeremy (last edited Feb 18, 2012 02:15AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jeremy Oh the thickness of the irony...sheesh...and you're talking about a lack of understanding on the behalf of the reviewer! You can argue with it, but at least get it right. It isn't even subtle. It's obvious that the 'darkie' comment is being used ironically... This is the kind of thing that a book like this encourages in people: a simplistic view of a massively complex problem. Bound to be flawed.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

yeah, well maybe the reviewer has concentrated more on adding irony to the review then actually understanding the book


Esther Cotton Holy crap, there's so much hate in response to this person's review. Maybe all the bashers are the ones who should go and re-read this book. :( Does Rishi need a lawyer now? Yikes.


Vardaan Aggarwal Wow! I can't believe that someone even said tat! TKAM IS ANYTHING BUT RACIST! You seriously have missed the point if the book.


message 47: by Katy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Katy WHITE PEOPLE LOVE THIS BOOK! It's popular with white teenagers and undergraduates. And, if you really aren't big on reading, there's always the movie.


Lindsey I know that lots have people have said that you missed the point of this book, but I think that you are simply looking at it from the wrong perspective. You are still looking at the black and the white. Try to look at the people for the characteristics they have. Atticus and Boo could have been black and Tom Robinson white. I think that the bigger picture was seen more after the trial when Atticus told Jem not to worry about Bob Ewell's death threat. "stand in Bob Ewell's shoes for a minute." Atticus says. The book causes or should have you to look at the way that people were/are treated in everyday society. We need to put ourselves in theirshoes and see that its not about the color.


message 49: by Iphis (last edited Nov 23, 2012 05:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Iphis I think it would be fair to criticize some of the limitations of To Kill a Mockingbird and some of its faults. But I don't think you do a good job here with that. For one thing, your intepretation that Tom is portrayed as a "dumb darkie" who "stupidly" runs and gets shot to escape prison is a very shallow and I would argue inaccurate reading of what happened in the book. If you look at the actual text, when Atticus reveals how Tom died, it says: "They said if he had two good arms he would have made it, he was moving that fast...We had such a good chance [at getting an appeal/getting Tom acquitted], but I couldn't in truth say we had more than a good chance. I guess Tom was tired of white men's chances and preferred to take his own." The book does not portray Tom's choice to try to escape as stupid. He was very close to escaping, and would have if not for his bad arm. Further, though the towns people later call it stupid, this view looks superficial and racist next to the reality Harper Lee shows us here: that Tom recognized how deeply intrenched racism was in the system. He had no reason to believe in a system governed and run by white men who continually have cheated him. So he tried to escape it--and he arguably had more of a chance at that than at winning in court. This decision is seen as logical to Atticus. He sympathizes with Tom's decision. It's not a stupid decision--in fact, being killed instantaneously that way would arguably have been better than him going to the electric chair or even going free only to very likely have been lynched by racists. Notice that he died on his own terms. He didn't die at the mercy of white men, at Atticus' failure. But he was his own agent and tried to escape in his own way. I think this successfully wrenches white saviorism from Atticus--and even the white judicial system: instead, he dies by RESISTING this system.

The system is portrayed as a racist, murderous system that is deeply flawed. As Lee states very close to the beginning of the novel, Atticus began to have "a profound distaste for the practice of criminal law" due to the absurdity of two of his clients being hanged simply for NOT pleading guilty. Atticus' hope and faith in the system was already begin to erode before this case. Lee also presents more of a criticism when the characters discuss how women cannot serve in the jury, and in the legal jargon around rape which is sexist and presented as preposterous (Jem notes that a woman must "hollar and fight" to be raped, but only if she is over 18, if she's a minor "she doesn't have to do that.") The legal system itself is shown to privilege white men over people of color and women. This criticism is also highlighted during the scene when Scout and her classmates talk about Hitler in class and her teacher explains that in democracy there is no prejudice and everyone is treated equally, to contrast the US with Nazi Germany. An astute reader can see the irony here. We've just read through a case dripping with prejudice. Lee launches a biting criticism of American society and its hypocrisy. This is just the tip of the ice berg.

There's a lot going in this book, but much of it is in the subtext, and you actually have to look at all the different criticisms Lee is launching on religion, society, law, "justice," etc. You could argue Atticus is yet another white savior in a racial novel, and maybe that criticism has merit, but your very shallow read does very little to illuminate what's going on in the book if that's the case. And the fact that Atticus ultimately fails in a system with a deeply entrenched racism, and the fact that many of the "good" white characters say racist things themselves problematizes the simple narrative you're trying to project onto this book. If this was a book about white saviorism, Atticus would win--or at least, another white person would. If ignorance was portrayed as the only (simple) problem behind racism, Atticus would merely have to educate racist white men, who would be cured of their racism when they were cured of their ignorance. And if you're going to argue he's a white savior, especially when he doesn't save anyone, you need to go deeper and actually analyze the book. Otherwise, your criticism has very little weight.


message 50: by Dominika (new) - added it

Dominika Hm, my perspective was something else entirely. Tim ran not because he was 'a stupid Negro', but because he was a man left with no hope. He took matters in his own hands, and though he chose the wrong means to do so, he didn't know any better not because he was black, but because he was a simple uneducated man. That African Americans constituted most of this time's 'uneducated people' was another matter entirely. Atticus was a hero because he stood up for Tim when few else would, and standing before a community rooted deeply in their racist behaviours was truly courageous, because he didn't only face social ostracism, but real, physical violence against him and, worse, his children. He did seem like a modest hero to me, but maybe my view of him is indeed too idealistic?


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