Why Will 'To Kill A Mockingbird' Always Be A Classic

Sep 30, 2021, 21:02 IST


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Harper Lee’s coming-of-age Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is inspired by her life encounters from Monroeville, Alabama. The novel navigates through the utterly flawed human nature and their social construct through a young girl’s point of view. The novel, even today, stands its ground when it comes to- authenticity and relevance. It is a first-person narrator novel combined beautifully by imagery, brief sentences and simple language. The world through ‘Scout’ eyes is a contemplative study towards human behavior. The book is set up in the 1920s, and as the novel demonstrates everything about what is ‘authentically human’, there is a lot to it, which has not aged well with time. Not the things in it, but basically the reality we live in. This has invited many objections against the book, as some groups of people are not okay with the bluntness of the writing in the book. The novel might be struggling between being a ‘classic’ and being ‘immoral’, but the undeniable fact here is, it is worth reading.

The whole narrative around Boo Radley aka Mr. Arthur is insensitive, confusing, undermining, and suspicious. Though it was impossible to ask questions back then. During that time, medical science was not that developed to understand or diagnose many things like they do now. This doesn’t mean it can be questioned now. Still Harper did an amazing job by putting the picture out, of how being ‘different’ can be morbid to one’s existence

Lee made sure to let people understand how a person can be tormented, if they don’t speak for themselves by bringing ‘opinions confliction’ of everyone in the Maycomb about Boo in the whole novel. Lee didn’t highlight any of it, as Mr. Arthur was not an alien but human, and everything happening to him was an undeniable truth. There are not many literary works which talk about human disabilities. In fact, scenarios around such people actually expose the imperfections of the human race, which was the whole agenda of writing this book.

In the novel Scout’s elder brother Jem once said- ‘I swear, Scout, sometimes you act so much like a girl it’s mortifying’ (Lee 1960, p.40). This explicitly points out misogyny; the tonality of it being said is so normal, that this makes it even more tragic. Considering the time of the book’s plot; sexism was a perception, and so was, also the reality. And the one who didn’t fit in it was often considered problematic, troublemaker, and difficult. Whereas, the other character- ‘the feminist’ Mrs. Maudie Atkinson is a treat for the readers, as she is a beaming light amidst the whole agony. She is considered as independent and open-minded who does not restrict herself with the social expectations of women in that time. In chapter 1, when Scout and Jem’s friend Dill dare Jem to go to Radley’s place and knock on the gate; he couldn’t deny it as he has never denied one ever as told in the story. “I suppose he loved honor more than his head, '' said Scout to sum up the situation (Lee, 1960, p.13). Such deeply engrained stupid and more often than not dangerous attitudes even in the kids is an atrocity, which was totally unchecked back then. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be checked now. All of these characters are from the same timeline, but still are so distinct from each other. This very clearly depicts that it is irrational to hold time responsible for human behavior, and perception.

In the novel, it can be really seen that Harper has poured her heart in the book. Each and everything are nothing more than real. Maybe, this is why it is relatable because it speaks mountains about human nature, which is surprisingly universal, and universally disappointing. She has used subtlety at its best.

The book is, and has faced many controversies even though, when the book doesn’t glorify anything problematic in any way; it is only there in the book because it did happen and just the way it happened. There is no alteration there. But the blunt reality spilled out all over the book has made a section of society worried. As they feel it is immoral to promote such literary works as classics. Especially the kids, they don’t need to indulge in such agony of the world at such a tender age. The book does call out very in depth and delicate threads of the societal codes of conduct. But it can’t be ignored either, that being ignorant isn’t a solution for anything, the whole novel represented that. The people in support of the book believe that the glaring disparity can’t be fixed without acknowledging that it exists in the first place. For kids, it will be better to understand why something is wrong, if they will know the cause and consequence of it.

Lee, H. (1960). To Kill a Mocking Bird. USA: J.B. Lippincott & Co., pp. 6-11-12-13-40-76-233.