I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.
Scout Finch, a young, outspoken tomboy, lives in the “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. Along with her older brother Jem and friend Dill, Scout spends her summers obsessing over a frightening and mysterious neighbor, “Boo” Radley, who has not been seen outside of his house for many years.
At the fringes of Scout’s awareness, her father, Atticus Finch, has been appointed as the defense attorney for Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Contrary to the opinions of many people in town, Finch is determined that Robinson be given a fair trial, even as he strives to secure his children’s understanding and safety.
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The story of Tom Robinson’s trial isn’t a distinctive or surprising one by any means. I imagine there are thousands of writers who could write (and have written) essentially that story. And you don’t have to have been to the South to have grappled with issues of race, prejudice, inequality, and so on.
Complete immersion in a child’s point of view, however, is not something many authors are able to evoke, at least in my own literary exposure. It is in this respect that I believe Harper Lee has crafted a true American classic. This tragic tale seen from a child’s point of view manages to be warm and amusing, even as it inspires reflection on its weightier themes.
So, yes, I like this book. I like it even more than I remember liking it, though I guess tenth-grade English isn’t always the ideal environment for engaged reading.
My Grade: A