Often, I’ll say I like a book because of the characters, or the plot, or the tone, or all three of the above. Sometimes, there is an extra special book that has more to it than characters, plot, and tone. To Kill A Mockingbird was a very influential book to me. It had characters, it had tone, and most importantly, it shows readers the importance of fighting for what is right.
Boo Radley and Judgment
Harper Lee’s book opens one hot, Southern summer. A new boy, whose nickname is Dill, has moved to town. Scout and her older brother, Jem, spend the summer playing with Dill. The trio’s favorite game is to play “Boo Radley.”
Boo Radley lives is the house across from Scout and Jem’s, and has never been seen by the townsfolk. Scout, Jem, and Dill make up terrible stories about Boo. They have a game of sneaking up as close as they dared go to the house, then running away.
Soon the children start finding gifts of gum and candy in a hollow tree, put there by Boo Radley for them. Slowly, Scout realizes that perhaps Boo Radley is not a terrifying lunatic, but rather a nice old man. This experience with Mr. Radley will influence Scout later in the book and in her life.
I love the lesson Scout learns here. She thinks she is stupid, but her father, Atticus Finch, tells her that “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” She begins to understand this when she realizes that Boo Radley, the eccentric man that the children of the town fear greatly, is actually a shy, kind man.
Justice and Injustice
Soon the children at school start mocking Scout and Jem about their “nigger-loving” father. They tell Scout and Jem that Atticus took on a case to defend a black man, and ridicule the two because of it. Atticus informs the children that it is true; he did take on the case, and asks them to endure the taunts of their friends.
Scout and Jem want to know more about the case, so they sneak into the trial to witness something that will change their lives. Tom Robinson has been accused of raping a white woman named Mayella.
Atticus has a brilliant defense and Tom a believable story, while Mayella Ewell and her father have a farfetched story that doesn’t seem to be true. Despite all appearances, the all-white jury convicts Tom of the offense, a capital offense in 20th century Alabama.
This part of the book is one of my favorites because it is here that Atticus shows Scout and Jem how to fight for justice, even if they know they will lose. She asks Atticus why he would defend Tom when he knew he would lose. Atticus tells Scout that true bravery is just that: fighting for the right thing even if it seems hopeless.
Finally, I love this book because Scout learns that the world is unfair and figures out how to deal with it. Tom Robinson shouldn’t have been ruled guilty. Boo Radley shouldn’t have had such a hard life or been ridiculed by her and the other children. Bob Ewell, the father of the white woman that accused Tom, should not have carried a grudge against her father. She learns that the world is unfair, and the only thing she can do about it is to love.
 Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (HarperPerennial, New York), p. 33.
Have you read To Kill A Mockingbird? What did you think? Who was your favorite character?