Why has the book To Kill a Mockingbird had such a profound impact on this world?

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merricat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird regularly appears in reading curriculums and on 'must-read' book lists because it deals with universal themes of integrity, fairness, courage, friendship, and forgiveness. 

It is also an accurate portrayal of the South at that time, when African Americans faced blatant racism. The story can be compared to the trial of "The Scottsboro Six," six young African American men who were convicted of raping two white women. Though there was no tangible evidence and the women seemed to be lying, the men were found guilty simply because the women were white.

Atticus Finch reminds us of what it is to do what is right even when your friends and neighbors turn against you because of it. He defends Tom Robinson with the same dedication and skill he would offer a white client, even though he knows the jury will find Tom guilty simply because he is African American and Mayella is white.

The book also teaches tolerance. Scout learns how to look at things from another person's point of view. This ability will grow into empathy as she matures and is certainly a valuable life lesson for anyone: treat others with respect and compassion.

Obviously other works address these themes as well. Part of the great appeal of this novel is Scout's narration. We see Scout's world of childhood games and innocent misunderstandings so common to many of us. She, Jem, and Dill are likable characters, and we watch them grow in knowledge and maturity throughout the novel. The Scout who viewed Boo Radley as a scary crazy man at the start of the story is very different from the Scout who took Mr. Arthur's hand in the final pages of the book.

To Kill a Mockingbird gains its appeal from themes which resonate with many people, characters who are realistic and appealing, a plot which draws the reader into the story, and an unflinching portrayal of a sad time in American history.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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