To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel written by American novelist Lee Harper. It’s one of the best must-read novels based mostly on racial discrimination between coloured and white people. It shows how racial prejudices of white people accorded them with supremacy over the Negroes. Just because of colour privilege and majority approval the Jury of Maycomb country indicted an innocent man to a first-degree crime.
To Kill a Mockingbird revolves around the Maycomb County of America. Looks like an autobiographical, it is a thorough narration of the daily happenings of the County by two siblings: a brother and sister, Jem and his sister, Scout Finch. Scout is the one who describes the whole novel, from their neighbours’ daily chores, their friend Dill, their father’s profession, the Sheriff of the county, the oppressive neighbour Radley family and the deplorable condition of the black people.
To Kill a Mockingbird: A Layer’s Stand for Justice
The pivotal part of To Kill A Mockingbird is how a criminal lawyer of Maycomb Court took the Tom Robinson case and fought to the utmost to prove him innocent of the crime he was alleged and arrested. The lawyer, Atticus Finch, the father of Jem and Scout put his reputation and endured collective vilification from the white people from the entire neighbourhood.
As if defending black people is another kind of crime, he encountered threats from the plaintiff, disgust from his family, and criticism from his neighbours. But, Atticus, a man who determined not to live a dual life refused to bend over and remained a man of his word to defend Tom Robison.
As a lawyer and as a father he was always ready to live up to his morals and principles he thought his children every day. Being a benevolent and lover of humanity and being a man of white class and considerably higher social rank, he considered not standing for the black people hypocrisy. And that makes everything different for him. Because he was not willing to live a life which is different from the court from family or vice versa.
He lived the life he thought his children and represented in the courthouse, while his children looked up to a man who presented himself to all genuinely. His children had to endure the uncouth remarks from their peers at school because of their father who is defending a black man in the court. Although Jem and Scout hated him for being an incompetent parent being a lover of black people, they had nothing but to be proud of their father.
To Kill a Mockingbird is equivalent to killing an innocent man, like a mockingbird who does no harm but makes up happy by singing should not be shot, the innocent men who do no harm to us cannot be killed. Ultimately Tom Robinson, a half-crippled man, became the mockingbird to be killed.
A white young woman, Mayella Ewell framed Tom Robinson, a cotton chopper, to be a rapist. She called him over to their property one day to chop a chifforobe. After the work had been done, she called him inside the house saying she had other work inside the house for him. She told him to get something down from a tall chifforobe standing on a chair. But he fell from the chair as she grabbed his legs. And the next thing she did was jump on him and hugged and kissed him around.
Being a father and a husband, he did not return the kiss when she asked. Her father showed up and witnessed them together. Horrified, Tom fled through the back door. She told her father that Tom raped her and fled. Her father testified to the court that he saw her badly injured around her neck and her right eye.
Informed, the sheriff arrested him and put him in prison for trial. Judge John Taylor appointed Atticus to defend Tom. Atticus proved to the Jury that Tom did not rape her. Sate layer did not present any medical evidence relating to her injury. That the scar on her right eye was caused by someone left-handed, such as her father. Even though Tom was also a left-hander, he could not hit her with his withered hand.
To the court, Atticus said, “The defendant is not guilty, but somebody in this courtroom is.” As to the reason why she said he raped her and put his life at stake was because she wanted to get rid of her own guilt. The guilt motivated her. She was guilty of breaking a rigid and “time-honoured”, or long-established code of their society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from their midst as unfit to live with.
Atticus figured that she was the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance, and race. “She knew full well the enormity of her offense, but because her desires were stronger than the code she was breaking, she persisted in breaking it…She did something every child has done— she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her, he must be removed from her presence, from this world. She must destroy the evidence of her offense”.
“She must put Tom Robinson away from her, he continued. “Tom Robinson was her daily reminder of what she did. What did she do? She tempted a Negro.” A crime of passion cannot be tolerated in white society. A white woman must not tempt a Negro, which in her society is unspeakable. Nevertheless, no code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards.
Presumably, nothing mattered to the jury, constituted by white folks. The evil assumption of white men that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their calibre. As a result, Tom Robinson had been convicted of a first-degree crime, who was to be chaired. Was sent to Enfield Prison Farm, where his wife and children were not allowed to visit him.
Unfortunately, making matters worse, Tom was killed by the prison guard while he was fleeing from the prison. His wife employed Tom’s employer, Mr Link Deas.
Bob Ewell, afterwards, tried to kill Atticus’ children one Halloween night, while they were going back home from the pageant. But Boo Radley, who remained captivated for fifteen years by his father to stop him from going around with the gang, followed them in the dark and saved them.
However, the sheriff, Hack Tate, found Bob Ewell dead with a kitchen knife stuck to his ribs. Atticus thought, that Jem killed him in self-defence. But to his surprise Sheriff protested that Jem did not kill him, and will present to the court that Bob Ewell died from falling over his own knife, which he proved to Atticus.
Atticus did not want the sheriff to exonerate his son, while is guilty of killing Mr Ewell. His fear was that if people got to know that Jem killed Ewell, and got him out of that by his father by hefty price, it’ll be a simple denial to Jem of the way he ‘tried to raise him.’
Atticus said, “Sometimes I think I’m a total failure as a parent, but I’m all they’ve got. Before Jem looks at anyone else, he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him . . . if I connived at something like this, frankly I couldn’t meet his eye, and the day I can’t do that I’ll know I’ve lost him. I don’t want to lose him and Scout, because they’re all I’ve got.” As a father, he never wanted to contradict his principles with vocation, and private life with that of the public.
However, when the Sheriff proved to him that Mr Ewell stumbled over the knife and killed himself, he dared not to contradict him. But who actually killed remained a mystery. Boo Radley could have killed as well, who had a bad reputation for mixing with the wrong crowd.
To Kill a Mockingbird reminded me of my early life in the remote part of Bangladesh. The sibling rivalry, disagreement, deep affection for each other, and their adventurous spirit of adolescence kept me bemused thoroughly.
To a query of Jem on the collective injustice of the white and the power of the jury, Atticus said, ‘The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any colour of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.” True that sometimes justice is still provided based on colour, but it is also equally true that a victim is denied justice because of financial underprivilege, in the 21st century.
Just as Anglo-Irish poet Jonathan Swift said, “law is like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornet break through”. The powerfuls and the people with the right connection escape justice while the weaks are denied the right to have justice. The struggle for justice is global and highly expected right of the victims.
Martin Luther King rightly pronounced that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The victims of injustice, sometimes, are the victims of the tyranny of layers. They choose not to side with justice but on the side of the stronger opponents.
To Kill a Mockingbird was adopted to a Hollywood film in 1962 under the same name. the film is one of the best creations in cinema history and one of the 100 best films of 100 years on my watching list.
Because of some difficulties with frequent phrasal verbs and native accented English one may find To Kill a Mockingbird a little bit unattractive, but the content and ingenuity of the story nation and prudent conversation and wise advice of Atticus will certainly provide you with literary satisfaction.
About the author
Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She attended Huntington College and studied law at the University of Alabama. To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. She is also the author of Go Set a Watchman, which was first published in 2015. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards and honours. She died on 19 February 2016.