The story of a young girl confronting deep-seated prejudice, it pits a six-year-old Scout Finch and her (relatively) anti-racist family against the segregation of an American South in the grip of . Author drew on her own childhood experience for the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. More than one critic has noticed some similarities between Scout and Lee herself—and between Scout's friend Dill and Lee's own childhood friend, . Like Scout, Lee's father was an attorney who defended black men accused of crimes; like Scout, Lee had a brother four years older.
It's hard to argue with To Kill a Mockingbird's message of standing up for what's right even when the costs are high. But not everyone agrees that the book holds the moral high ground. While the main reason it frequently appears on lists of banned books is its use of profanity, it's also been challenged for its one-dimensional representation of African-Americans as docile, simple folk who need whites to protect them. Some people see the novel as taking a powerful stand against racism. Others just see it as promoting a kinder, gentler form of racism.
To Kill a Mockingbird portrays a society that is supremely, staggeringly unfair: the U.S. South in the 1930s in a small town where racism is part of the very fabric of society. Faced with this situation, an equality-minded person might be tempted to say, "Ugh, just wake me up when the gets here," and keep his or her head down until then.
Some people in the novel do just that. But a few decide to take action on the side of justice and equality, even though they think it's mostly hopeless. To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't the results (minor spoiler: the book does not end with everyone holding hands and singing ""). It does, however, suggest that doing something to make life a little more fair, even if it seems like it's not having any effect, is still worthwhile, and what's more, admirable.
If you're going to write a you couldn't do much better than To Kill a Mockingbird. Winning the , it's never been out of print, it leads at least one list of , and it's been middle- and high-school English classes for generations.
I have learned many lessons from the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, but I think none is as valuable as the lesson Atticus Finch teaches his daughter, Scout, about trying to understand and deal with other people. Scout has just been punished for mocking a fellow student for his dining habits (he pours syrup over his entire meal), but she doesn’t understand what she has done wrong. Atticus points out to Scout that all people are not the same and to try and understand another human being you must “climb into his skin and walk around in it.” The act of conscious empathy is what I believe in as a reminder of how to interact with others daily.