To Kill A Mockingbird
Trying to pinpoint exactly what constitutes a Great American Novel has led to an enormous amount of speculation. Some critics highlight the coming-of-age aspect while others assign greater importance to the issues of relatable American life. The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have all earned renowned reputation for these elements. They have been the subject of countless scholarly studies and are part of the national dialogue concerning topics of race, gender, and class in America. What is unfairly not often included in this pantheon of Great American Novels is Harper Lee’s 1960 masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird. The book has been a standard in classrooms, incorporates the classic elements of celebrated literature, and features characters so well known they can be casually referred to by name in everyday speech, yet Lee’s artistry has been largely marginalized. Expertly analyzing the themes of race relations, justice, the loss of innocence, and small town life, Lee didn’t just write a compelling story; she may have composed the most fully considered example of the Great American Novel in our collection of literature.
While the language of To Kill A Mockingbird is simple, the literary elements are effective and creative. Lee is careful to write from the vantage point of a child, never allowing her prose to seem stuffy or overly complex. The most obvious of these comes from the title itself: the mockingbird. Mockingbirds are included very rarely in the text, but as these creatures are named in the very title of the work indicates to readers to pay attention when mockingbirds are mentioned, for they seem to be secretly very important to the story. Even without a...
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...ticus Finch, based on his last name alone, is close to a mockingbird but isn’t quite the same. Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are the ultimate examples of purity, as they are both forced to live amongst the bluejays, while trying to protect what’s good about their souls while also simply trying to survive the attacks, which can come on at any time. In nature, the mockingbird is Lee’s ultimate example for innocence and kindness. The characters living in Maycomb, Alabama recognize this purity, admire it, but no matter how hard they try, are unable to live up to the qualities needed for universal kindness and generosity towards each other that mockingbirds are known for showing every creature on Earth that they come across. Every character loses their innocence sooner or later, and must learn to live in a world where complete purity seems unfortunately impossible.
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