Nelle Harper Lee (April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016) was an American novelist widely known for To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Immediately successful, it won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. Though Lee had only published this single book, in 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. Additionally, Lee received numerous honorary degrees, though she declined to speak on those occasions. She was also acknowledged for assisting her close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). Capote was the basis for the character Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird.


Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

The novel is about two children, Jem and Scout Finch, trying to understand the world through their principled father Atticus Finch, a lawyer, and the events that affect them and their neighborhood. All is well until Atticus takes up the case to defend an innocent black man – Tom Robinson, falsely accused of raping a white girl. Much to the children’s surprise and shock, they, along with their father, are forced to face sudden hostility from their neighbors and friends as their father hopelessly tries to defend a black man. Whether their father wins or loses the case, regains the good opinion of the town, and what the children learn (or more importantly, unlearn and relearn) from the events and the repercussions form the rest of the story.

Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, portrays an accurate reflection of the grim state of affairs prevalent in the southern United States during the 1930s. The story includes a vast display of symbolism to connect the main plot with numerous subplots. The novel also highlights a whole gamut of themes and represents a general story from a local viewpoint. The overall dispute contains the obvious cry for justice, but, at the same time, ruthlessly mocks the very civilization of Southern society.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

Lee gets the reader thinking, not only about the way people were treated in the past, but also about how we should be treating people nowadays. The book also emphasizes the need for tolerance for diversity and for standing up for what’s right. Ultimately, this book aims to inspire the readers to stand up for what they believe is right, and to inculcate those values in their children, for Atticus’ behavior had a massive influence on both Scout and Jem.

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes the readers back to the roots of human behavior – to their inherent innocence and simplicity, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor, social inequity, personal restraint and compassion. This book is appealing mainly due to its subtle humor, which is brought about as a result of the gap between the children’s unerring perception of the fine line between what happens and what actually should happen.

The book is set in the 1930’s, the period of the Great Depression, which had a profound impact on Southern America. Most of the characters are poor and uneducated farmers. The courtroom scenes are extremely well-written and appear to reflect Ms. Lee’s personal experiences with the law. Some parts of the story are a little slow at times, but never boring and always worth the wait for something more exciting to unfold. Every character and every little anecdote adds to the flavor, color and depth of this ageless tale. The message it conveys is a timeless one, and the symbol of the mockingbird is no less ingenious.

Ameya Rating:

To Kill a Mockingbird is another of those books that, sadly enough, still find themselves at the top of ALA’s most banned/challenged books list. It does contain some profanities, and a number of instances where the derogatory “n”-word is used for African Americans, but given the time and setting of the book, it never seems overdone or out of place. It is a highly recommended book with a rating of 4.3 out of 5. While the times might have changed, the values underlined in the novel are still useful – probably more than they ever were! Whoever picks up this book is advised to buckle up for an emotional roller-coaster ride.

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