THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
I hardly mentioned this to my friends, but I hadn't read To Kill a Mockingbird. Atleast, not till a couple of days ago. But I am sort of glad I waited this long, because I am able to better appreciate the significance of the novel and the situations.
Scout, who narrates the book, is a tomboy just starting school. She has hours of fun with her brother Jem and her friend Dill, playing pranks, enacting stories and trying to lure their reclusive neighbour "Boo" Radley out of his mansion. They are motherless, living with their lawyer father Atticus Finch, and cared by their black maid Calpurnia. They are subject to much scrutiny when Atticus defends a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman. Through the trial, Scout and Jem learn much about the nature of people, and imbibe the values that drive Atticus.
What I absolutely loved about the book is the innocence of all the children. In Scout's narrative, there is no heaviness to overshadow the child's voice. Scout's words and actions are fresh and uncomplicated, as in the scene where she faces a mob out to lynch Tom. Her relationship with Boo is lovely, from the initial stages where she teases the man she has never seen, to the final meeting and poignant separation.
The novel has many themes: courage, compassion, prejudice, justice and equality. The racial prejudices that coloured American society are clearly depicted, in the everyday actions of people towards blacks and in the attitude of the "tired old town" to Atticus' championing of a black man's rights. Atticus' unwavering sense of justice and his willingness to stand up for what he thinks is right makes him a memorable character. Also, Lee explores the stringent rules on women and gender and class prejudices through people's reactions to Scout's innumerable scrapes. She uses satire and irony to address complex issues, weaving an elegant tapestry which gives a peek into the Southerner's lives. To me, many of the issues that the novel addresses have particular significance; as an Indian girl in a male-dominated engineering college, I see many of the prejudices being played out in our so-called enlightened youthful country. To Kill a Mockingbird has been called "a book every adult should read before he/she dies", and rightly so. I'll leave you with one of my favorite paragraphs from the book, when Scout escorts Boo home, reflecting on their relationship, in what I think is a melancholic allusion to life as such.
"Neighbours bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbour. He had given us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of goodluck pennies, and our lives. But neighbours give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it:we had given him nothing, and it made me sad."