In a detailed book review of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird,focus on the theme, characters and plot. Ensure that you include your personal opinions and reflections especially about the values...

In a detailed book review of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird,focus on the theme, characters and plot. Ensure that you include your personal opinions and reflections especially about the values and life lessons from the novel.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A moving and finely written novel, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird enlists its readers on the journey of a child's heart caught in the midst of a small town's crisis of conscience in the Jim Crow South. Written in 1960, it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and has been translated into forty languages with its appeal of the universal themes of Compassion and Cruelty, Innocence and Experience, and Social and Racial Prejudice.

Narrated by a mischievous tomboy nicknamed Scout, Maycomb, Alabama, and its citizens are depicted through the innocent, but increasingly clear-eyed vision of a young girl who is first introduced to social dynamics when she attends first grade. Without realizing her own prejudices, she essays to explain to her "outsider" teacher from the only county in Alabama that was a Northern sympathizer in the Civil War that she could not expect much economically and socially from certain students such as Walter Cunningham and Burris Ewell. After her conflict with Miss Caroline, her father, Atticus Finch, advises her to try to understand by "...climb[ing] into his skin and walk[ing] around in it." And, so it is that Scout struggles to follow her father's advice whether it is in dealing with the churlish Mrs. Dubose, her irritating cousin Francis, her stuffy, socially-conscious Aunt Alexandra, her brother Jem and impish friend Dill, or the reclusive, strange Boo Radley.

Just as her brother Jem begins the tumultuous period of puberty, he and Scout feel their secure and serene lives endangered after their honorable father accepts the assignment of being public defender for Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl. In the South of 1933, the verdict is a foregone conclusion no matter the evidence, and despite the warnings and threats of the community who challenge and vilify him, Atticus vows to defend Tom as best he can. Throughout the moral crisis of this novel, Atticus possesses the respect of such stalwart characters as Calpurnia, the black maid and mother-figure to the children, and Miss Maudie a sprightly older woman--both physically and spiritually--who challenges any religious or social prejudice.

During the mob scene and the front-yard gathering of townsmen who come to advise Atticus of his social blunders, Mr. Finch garners the awe and respect of his children, who also rise to the social challenges and bravely try to protect their father from the Old Sarum Bunch who come to hang Tom before the trial and from the townsmen who suggest a different venue for it.  

Clearly, the climax of the novel is the trial of Tom Robinson (modeled loosely after a real-life racial verdict on Emmet Till in Mississippi, who was accused of flirting with a white woman and brutally murdered without a trial); it is also the climactic venue for the maturation of the two Finch children and friend Dill, whose vision of reality becomes emotionally disturbing. However, their trauma is softened by the counsel of the social outcast Mr. Dolphus Raymond, a man from a family of social distinction who lives with a black woman and has "mixed" children; it is also alieviated by the grandmotherly Miss Maudie whose wisdom on life soothes some of the sharpness of their experience as she counsels the children to be very proud of their father because Maycomb has paid him "the highest tribute in trusting him to do right."

Moreover, the influence of Atticus Finch prompts Mr. Underwood, known for disliking blacks, to write a scathing editorial against those whose hearts condemn people before even knowing them; his fatherly influence leads Jem and Scout to understand that the villainous Bob Ewell is one of life's miscreants, who will attack anyone indiscriminately. Further, Atticus's affect upon the children and his acceptance of all leads Scout to her maturation as she stands on the Radley porch and looks across at hers and Miss Maudie's homes after having walked the fragile man who saved her brother and her from great physical injury at Ewell's hands:

Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

A great book is one that readers close after the final page and feel that they have said farewell to a friend. To Kill a Mockingbird is, indeed, a young friend who takes its readers of all ages on one of life's most important journeys to be either learned or reviewed.

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CaitlynnReeves | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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Scout and Jem, the children of Alabama lawyer Atticus, find themselves in the midst of a court case that rocks their hometown. 

A young black man is accused of raping a white woman. As a result, racial awareness spikes in the small southern town of Mobile. The story is told from the point of view of Scout. She struggles with understanding racism, her adolecent older brother, and the expectation of being "lady like." 

Atticus is unable to keep the defendant from going to prision and the young man is shot while trying to escape. Even then the excitment over the case does not die down. Atticus receives threats from the plaintif's father, Mr. Ewell. 

Walking home from a school play one night, Scout is attacked by none other than Mr.Ewell. 

Even with the villian disposed of at the end, the reader gets the sense that there is no true justice. Racism and biggetry were at the heart of the events and those things are not fully disipated for the main charaters at the end of the novel. 

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