The story is narrated by eight year old Scout, formally named Jean Louise, who unaware of the complex working of human society has a very straightforward and unbiased opinion of things. This adds a touch of humor and irony to the entire story. Her way of looking at things in a very simplistic manner, helps us attain an insight into how man has made life complicated by creating a difference in the likes of human beings.
It all starts off with Scout explaining to us about how Jem, her elder brother broke his elbow. As Jem and Scout vary in their accounts of how it all happened, Scout tells us the whole lot of it, from the very beginning. And somewhere along the way, we end up knowing a lot more than just a broken elbow. The author handles the sensitive issue of racism and discrimination in a very skillful and almost humorous way, laced with innocence and clear, unpolluted thoughts of the children, while stirring up the reader’s heart and conscience.
The story is set in the 30’s of Southern America, when racism and suppression of the colored people was prominent. In the small little Maycomb County, Alabama, Atticus Finch the attorney for state who also happens to be Scout and Jem’s father is handed a controversial case of an innocent black man, charged with the rape of a white woman. As things proceed, the kids transit from a state of confusion as to what’s happening, to that of understanding and a clear resolve for justice. Their unprejudiced minds, and inquisitive hearts, also probe into the lives and minds of the rest of the townsfolk who tend to suppress their more rational and just thoughts about the issue, for the sake of keeping up the façade of white dominance.
The townsfolk, with quite a lot of prejudice, come to a mutual conclusion that it is but right that the black man be convicted of the felony. But Atticus Finch , who truly believes that cheating a black man, is ten times worse than cheating a white man, does his very best to win the case. The title of the book comes from something Atticus says to the kids, when they get air rifles on Christmas. He says, that his father had once told him, “Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (here the mocking bird signifies the black man). He explains to the kids, that likewise, convicting an innocent black man, based on his colour, would be a grave sin as well.
Another instance, which makes us realize the simplicity of life, which we ourselves complicate, is when Jem and Scout are having a conversation over what different sorts of people exist and Jem reckons there are 4 kinds. And naïve Scout, mumbles to herself “I think there is just one kind of folks. Folks”
And then there is Boo Radley, a character who confines himself to the boundaries of his house and is a mystery to all others. But as Jem and Scout begin to uncover the ugly reality of the society, Jem begins to understand Boo Radley. He says, that maybe it isn’t all that strange that someone would want to stay out of the mess of humanity as it would be much simpler that facing the cruel world.
The author has woven a very simple, yet an amazing storyline. The pure and innocent narration and conversations by the kids, about serious adult conflicts, tend to make us come to our senses about we have made out of this world. Whatever happened to the phrase, ‘all are equal’? .What is the motive behind such biased and unfair treatment towards a certain kind or sect of people? Why does color or origin have anything to do with how you are treated and respected in the society? This and very many other such questions arise when you read the book. But as the story comes to an end, the reader will surely have a much clearer mind about these issues as the raw opinions and uncomplicated thought process of the kids is laid bare for us to go through and contemplate upon.
I sincerely hope that everyone covets the opportunity to cleanse yourself of any sort of prejudice that might be lingering in some forgotten corner of your mind. And this book, will surely serve as a tool for that job.
II PPES ‘O’