How is the novel To Kill a Mockingbird considered to be a universal and timeless love story?I'd like to know a little bit more about this aspect of the novel, for I cannot see it.
I believe this question comes from a statement Harper Lee once made about To Kill a Mockingbird, in which she calls this novel a love story. If the author says it, we'd better take it seriously.
It's true this is not a traditional romantic love story, since the only real "couple" we see is the engaged pair--Scout and Dill. So there must be other types of love. How about a father's love for his children? Atticus wants to protect them when he can, prepare them as he can, and help them through as he needs to. Think about that night at the jail--we see the normally unflappable (not easily flustered or rattled) Atticus in true fear for his children.
How about a wonderful, innocent love between the aforementioned couple, Scout and Dill. Normally I would not say a bedroom scene is delightful, but theirs is.
How about a love for the South. Even as an adult, Scout, who knows full well the flaws of her town, looks back with nostalgia and love in the first chapter of the novel.
“Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”
How about Atticus's love for justice and equality in the face of certain defeat and prejudice. How about Scout's love (passion, thirst) for learning and reading and knowing. And finally, how about Tom's love (compassion) for a fellow human being (Mayella)--even at the price of his life.
Think beyond romantic love, think about something bigger, and there's plenty of love demonstrated in this novel--which is probably one of the reasons it's so beloved.
Above all, To Kill A Mockingbird is a story about a man's love for humankind--and his attempt to pass this love and understanding on to his children. At the beginning of the novel, we're introduced to Atticus Finch, a widower who is raising his two children alone (though he relies heavily on Calpurnia, who cooks, cleans, and tends to the children while Atticus is working).
Atticus consistently teaching his children to love others by showing them respect. Early on, he teaches Scout to put herself into other people's shoes to gain an understanding of their lives. He teaches the children to respect the Radley family, as they have been unjustly judged by the citizens of Maycomb. Through his defense of Tom Robinson, Atticus teaches the children that all human beings deserve to be treated fairly. As a result of Atticus's example, the children learn that no one person is better than another, and that social class and race do not dictate what kind of person someone is.
Ultimately, I believe that To Kill A Mockingbird has been described as a love story because the idea of love--not romantic love, but the most fundamental type of love for humankind--is present and central throughout the novel.
When I teach this novel I introduce it by saying that it is considered a love story. The students don't understand this at first, but by the end of the novel most of them get it. It's about social justice and love for our neighbor. This is demonstrated the most by the character of Atticus, who risks his reputation and even his life to defend Tom. Above all, I think the story is about a man's love for his children. It's an eye-opening book, and many students tell me that it's the best novel they have ever read.
Atticus Finch is a man who understands the power of love. With his love for his children always in the forefront of all his thoughts--"How can I face my children?" "I can't live one way in town and another way in my home"--Atticus sets an example for his beloved children in every action and every word. For, he wants his children to understand that what he says, he believes. And, there is no greater love than to want what is right for others.