It is said that the plot and characters are based loosely on Harper Lee's family and neighbours, as well as on an event that happened near her hometown in 1936, when she was ten.
Nelle Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Alabama. She became close friends with neighbour, Truman Capote (apparently the character, Dill, is based on Capote). After completing To Kill a Mockingbird, she assisted Capote in his research for his book, In Cold Blood. However, she didn't publish anything else herself.
The storyThe story is told by six year old Scout Finch during the Great Depression. She lives with her brother Jem and father Atticus in Alabama.
A young boy, Dill, comes to stay with his aunt every summer and becomes friends with Scout and Jem. During their summers together they become fascinated with the reclusive neighbour Arthur "Boo" Radley. The whole town seems reluctant to talk about Boo and few have seen him for years. After several summers with Dill, the children start to find small treasures in a tree outside the Radley house. They hope that one day they will actually see Boo but sadly for them this doesn't happen.
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Atticus does a great job at trying to prove Tom's innocence, establishing that Mayella and her father, Bob are lying and that she was making advances towards Tom. Bob, having seen Mayella's advances, beats her. Despite the evidence Tom is convicted. Sadly Tom is killed when trying to escape from prison.
Bob Ewell, believing that he was humiliated in court vows revenge; he spits at Atticus, tries to break into the judge's house and harasses Toms wife. He also attacks Scout and Jem as they walk home from a school pageant one night. During the attack, Jem's arm is broken and a stranger comes to the children's aid. This stranger carries Jem home, where Scout realises that it is Boo Radley.
The sheriff arrives at the Finch house to tell Atticus that Bob Ewell has been killed and convinces him that he fell on his own knife.
Scout walks Mr Arthur "Boo" Radley home, he closes the door. She never sees him again and regrets never repaying him for the gifts that he left them in the tree.
My thoughtsI believe this book does a good job of showing the lives of African-Americans in the 1930's and the prejudice and fear they faced every day - even though it is told by a young girl who is still relatively naive to these prejudices.
I think Atticus is very heroic for defending Tom Robinson, despite the town disapproving. I also admired him teaching his children to see the good in Boo Radley. I always wanted to be this kind of role model for my own children one day - hopefully now I am.
It is very easy to read, even though it has many political themes the writing doesn't scream or preach at you. I thoroughly enjoy it every time.
Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? What are your thoughts?