To kill a mockingbird

One of the most famous worldwide novels of the 20th century, To Kill a Mockingbird, was Harper Lee’s grand roman. Its effect on literature and society has echoed through the ages and is still as poignant today as it was the very day it was first released. A tale of Southern America during the Great Depression of the 1920s, the novel focuses on the childhood experiences of the main protagonist, Scout Finch. Through Scout’s eyes, we are treated to a whirlwind story of some of the grittier issues that pervaded Alabama society in the era.

With issues such as racism still a contemporary problem and the battle between good and evil still completely relevant, To Kill a Mockingbird has never waned in popularity. At its very essence, what has made To Kill a Mockingbird such a famous novel?

A groundbreaking novel of the era

Many of the main themes and issues highlighted in To Kill a Mockingbird were socially taboo at the time. The 1920s initially brought great prosperity, followed by the Great Depression, but we should never forget that regimes such as segregation were still very present in the USA at that time. To highlight those issues in a popular novel piqued the curiosity of many readers. Alabama still has a high proportion of racism, with practices such as lynchings still occurring. To Kill a Mockingbird laid this culture bare to the world, allowing people to gain an insight into southern life.

When you consider that the novel was penned by a woman in the late 1950s, just as feminism was starting to gain a foothold in society, we can see the novel’s groundbreaking nature has contributed to its fame. Harper Lee drew inspiration from the many writers before her, such as Mary Prince, and stood strong with her contemporaries like Maya Angelou. However, she also paved the way for many future novelists to address issues of racism, injustice, and inequality.

The battle between good and evil

One of the themes that underpin all the stories in the novel, the battle between good and evil, is one that every reader can identify with. Through the stories of Jem and Scout, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson and Atticus himself, we are left to question the very nature of good and evil and whether or not good can exist in bad people and vice versa. As the novel makes us question the very nature of humanity, it has stayed relevant and up-to-date in a way that many other novels do not.

Prejudices and racism

In the modern world, prejudices and racism may have been reduced, but, unfortunately, they still exist. Through a novel like To Kill a Mockingbird, we can gain a profound comprehension of just how tough life was for people of colour in the 1920s and empathise with the battles they faced. At the same time, we can also see just how far we have come as a society since that era and how far we still have to go to achieve an equal society where everyone is treated with respect and equity.

The importance of education

This theme highlights just how a lack of learning can negatively affect people. For many people, this is an important issue that they can identify with. A higher level of learning can open a myriad of opportunities, whereas a lack of education can slam doors.

With much controversy about educational inequalities globally, especially when it comes to race and gender, To Kill a Mockingbird has remained contemporary. It was a progressive novel that drove conversations about topics that may have been previously taboo at the time it was written.

The quality of the writing

Harper Lee was a lady with a profound ability to weave a wonderful tale. The quality of her writing netted her a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and spawned an Academy Award-winning film adaptation. Of all the things that have made To Kill a Mockingbird so famous a novel, the way that Harper Lee tells the story, the way she draws us in. The way she allows us to identify and empathise with the characters is the principal reason this novel has stood the test of time and has increased in popularity over the years.

Many schoolchildren read the book in school, but it is only later, when the nature of what it means to live in the world becomes truly apparent, that we can truly understand the essence of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Which books do you think have stood the test of time?

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