Let’s Read Banned Books–To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Lippincott, 1960, Harper, 2015
Pulitzer Prize winner, 1961
reviewed by Janet Slagle
(Editor’s note: Much to my surprise and delight, my longtime friend Janet Slagle has taken up my challenge to write a review of a banned book that she cares about. In the links below, you’ll find an article about more specifics on the history of its banning. But first enjoy this appreciation and defense of an American classic. -Seana)
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Recently banned by some schools due to racist and offensive language. Also, the plot involves accusation of rape.
I consider this book a treasure for multiple reasons.
I enjoy it for the historical aspect, as it gives a vivid glimpse of life in a small Southern town, during the depression era (mid 1930’s).
I find the style of writing captivating, as the story is narrated by a young precocious girl, in her childlike dialect, giving the reader her innocent perspective. She basically “tells it like it is,” by relating what she witnesses, in her own words. It is clear she doesn’t have the emotional maturity to completely understand what is happening, but the reader will surmise.
I appreciate the message of racial injustice and equality. This book teaches many moral lessons in a very subtle way.
This book touches on several sensitive issues besides racial injustice, such as rape, incest, alcoholism, mental illness, and poverty. In my opinion, the book is never explicit or insensitive. I feel this book is fine for ages 13 and up. I believe this book has great educational value.
Reading this book, I would be laughing, then in a few more pages, I’d be crying. It tugs at your emotions.
The main character is Jean Louise, also known as “Scout”. Her escapade accomplices are her older brother Jem and their friend Dill.
Purposefully striving to teach Scout manners, morals, and tolerance, are her widowed father, Atticus, and Calpurnia, their long time cook/housekeeper.
While Scout is the main character and narrator, Atticus becomes the story’s hero. Immense courage is displayed, as he defends a black man against rape charges. The rape victim or accuser is a white woman. As the trial proceeds, the town becomes increasingly tense and divided, resulting in the threat of violence.
Atticus is determined to do what is right and just, even if it is not popular or supported by the majority. At the same time, he is trying to protect his children from the increasing ugliness happening in town.
In banning this book from high school curriculum, so much is lost. The historical account of life in the mid 1930’s. The value of the moral lessons it exhibits. The examples of empathy and tolerance it teaches. The language that is questionable was normal language spoken in that era. The book even addresses certain offensive words when Scout is reprimanded for using them.
(Well, fellow readers, that’s how it’s done. What about you? Any banned books that you’d like to champion? There are some links to some lists of the banned and challenged below if you want to take a gander. And thank you, Janet! -Seana)
Janet Slagle is retired after 35 years of working in Silicon Valley, first in customer service and then as a product planner. She’s now enjoying having more time to read and travel.