So heralded is Harper Lee’s sole publication that a World Book Day Poll conducted by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council in 2006 saw it being named as the one book every adult should read before they die; one place ahead of the Bible. It is deemed by many as one of literature’s best works and Lee gained much notoriety following its publication due to her reclusive naturen.
And with the juxtaposition of warmth and humour intertwined with more serious themes of rape and racial inequality, it’s easy to see why it was awarded this accolade and has become one of America’s greatest exports.
And while many novels are penned purely for entertainment purposes, there are many from which valuable lessons can be learnt when looking at the context in which they’re written. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of these. Published in 1960, the novel is set during the Great Depression against the backdrop of America’s deep south, where racism was still rife and is infiltrated in much of the text. It follows six year old Scout Finch, whose widowed father is hired to defend a black man accused of raping a white girl which prompts much outcry from a largely racist town.
The conclusion of the trial brings morality and justice into question and draws clear parallels with what life was like for black people during America’s Great Depression. And while Lee has always insisted that To Kill A Mockingbird is not autobiographical, her novel clearly mirrors her belief that an author ‘should write about what he knows and write truthfully’.
To Kill A Mockingbird certainly ranks high on numerous book polls and with its beautiful prose and intricately woven themes, it is easy to see why.
Harper Lee never published a second novel and later said of that fact “It’s better to be silent than to be a fool.”
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