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Above all else, Harper Lee has created a very believable fictional world of Maycomb, telling her story through a mix of humor and pathos in highly realistic fashion that accurately describes the world of the Depression era Deep South. Today's students are able to see what life was like in 1930s Alabama, a more simple time when "People moved slowly" in a town with both innocent charm and underlying racial tension. Lee has brought to life some of the most memorable characters in American literature: Atticus Finch, the quintessential honest but liberal Southern lawyer; his daughter, Scout, a precocious tomboy whose storytelling talent far outweighs that of her boyfriend, Dill; and Boo Radley, a larger-than-life phantom who does not appear until the final pages of the novel. The theme of racial injustice is hammered home through the trial of Tom Robinson, an honest black man accused of raping the daughter of the most reviled white man in town. The theme of tolerance toward other people is found throughout the book, and the loss of innocence that the children experience should arouse the emotions of both students and adults. It is a novel that is required reading in many states, and it's no wonder: Combining an ease of readability, strong characterizations, powerful storytelling narrative, and social messages concerning the rights of equality and fairness, TKAM remains a powerful novel that both entertains and educates those who read it.
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