Atticus Finch is quite possibly one of my favourite literary characters, to my recent discovery, following my read of the astounding ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. Now you may be wondering, why are you only just reading it now?! Trust me, I’m wondering the exact same thing. I must say, drop everything you’re doing and read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ right now; if you’ve already read it, the same applies… This is definitely a beautiful novel, which I hope to re-read again and again.
Now let me tell you, when I began reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, I may or may not have thought that Scout Finch was a boy… I’m sorry okay, it was an easy mistake to make! (Perhaps this was Lee’s intention. You know, innocent, child-like defiance of traditional, female expectations). Nonetheless, the narration from the perspective of a nine-year-old girl was definitely a surprise to me, but it most certainly fuelled the storyline. Seeing the world from the eyes of a little girl, places the reader effectively in a position of naivety and idealistic moral standards. From education to racism to law, Scout, in all of her innocence, certainly has a strong grasp on the aforementioned concepts, despite her young age.
Whilst one would naturally be expected to discuss the hero of the novel Mr Atticus Finch, fighter for justice and equality, or perhaps even the adventures of Scout, Jem and Dill, or even the heavy theme of racial prejudice, I am greatly intrigued by none other than Boo Radley. Most obviously, the novel charts the destruction of innocence of the children, who gradually discover the unjust, cruel nature of the world we live in, and more specifically the ignorance and inhumanity of mankind. However, Boo Radley certainly becomes a symbol of the repercussions of the destruction of childhood innocence, translated in the form of adulthood seclusion. Following the Gothic, superstitions surrounding Boo Radley definitely intensify the foreboding atmosphere of the novel. Combined with other Gothic elements, such as the rabid dog and Bob Ewell’s manic outburst and attempted murder, Lee effectively juxtaposes the seemingly normal, picturesque, quaint Maycomb County, with the great tension and eerie happenings, thus foreshadowing the ultimate fall of man, so to say, or disappointment in the failure of humanity to repent for its wrongdoings. When presented with a second chance, mankind ultimately fails to redeem itself. Furthermore, the development of Scout, Jem and Dill parallels their fluctuating attitudes towards Boo Radley. Initially, the children held great feelings of hostility and fear, simultaneously amalgamated with a sense of curiosity towards Boo. However, as the novel progresses, the children find comfort and protection in the form of Boo Radley. The most notable turning-point is most-definitely Boo’s surge to save the children, succeeding Ewell’s psychotic attack. However, an earlier occurrence would be the appearance of gifts in the Radley Oak, or later the blanket that is placed on Scout’s shoulders, following the fire. Rather than my initial assumption that Boo becomes an embodiment of aversion towards humanity’s sin, he is perhaps a symbol of morality, almost playing the role of guardian angel for the children, continuously shaping their morality. More convincingly, Boo represents the misjudgements of society, in bearing the brunt of neighbourhood gossip and the torment of children, as initially branded by Scout as a “malevolent phantom”. Rather, Boo Radley is a harmless stranger, subject to the misconceptions of society, as corroborated in the famous line “it is a sin to kill a mockingbird”. The mockingbird, which is the eponymous symbol of the novel, acts in a similar manner to Boo Radley, in representing harmlessness and innocence, yet is vulnerable to the violence and judgement of man.
Overall, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a definite must-read. Whilst I usually recommend every book I read, what can I say I love reading, this is different (I swear). Lee’s novel is truly inspiring. In deciding to review this novel, I had naturally expected to explore racial prejudice. However, I seemingly went off on a tangent about Boo Radley (oops). In the future, I will perhaps re-review this novel because Atticus’ speech is personally one of the most inspiring pieces of Literature I’ve ever encountered and it’d be a shame for it to go unspoken. Let me know what you think.
Comment: Shoutout to my friend James for extending my vocabulary and informing me of the word ‘eponymous’!