🎤🎥NOVEL: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

NOVEL: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, American (1926 – Present)

“Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’  That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’

Imagine my surprise to learn that Harper Lee, the author of one of the greatest 20th century American classics, To Kill a Mockingbird, is to publish a new book, Go Set a Watchman, on July 14th, 2015.  It has been 55 years since Lee wrote a novel about the racism she observed as a child in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

Harper Lee

Harper Lee


Nelle Harper Lee was the youngest of four children.  Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was a lawyer with the Alabama State Legislature.  Lee’s father once defended two African-American men (a father and son) accused of killing a storekeeper: they were tried by a jury, found guilty, and hanged. Clearly, this event had an impact on Harper Lee, for she followed in her father’s footsteps, studying law at The University of Alabama. However, she did not complete her law degree but moved to New York, obtained a job with an airline, and started writing fiction in her spare time.  She published To Kill a Mockingbird in July 1960.  It became an immediate bestseller, and she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961.  After her success as a writer, she assisted Truman Capote, her childhood friend (whom she based the character Dill on in Mockingbird), in researching material for his book In Cold Blood.  Lee never published another book, making the upcoming publication of Go Set a Watchman next Tuesday very exciting.

THE PLOT:  To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, set in Macomb County, Alabama, “a tired town,” where a Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, defends Tom Robinson, an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman.  The town is rife with racial tension, its citizens displaying open hatred towards Tom before and during the trial, some deciding he is guilty before he is even tried, others intending to lynch him.  Their reasoning?  How dare Tom Robinson have pity on Miss Ewell, a lonely white woman, or deign to kiss her!  Of course, it is she who asks Tom into her house on several occasions to do odd jobs like “bustin’ up a chiffarobe.” She is the one who initiates the kiss, catching him totally off guard, and when her abusive father sees her through the window, she cries “rape!”

QUOTE: “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in the court-room, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it–whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, or how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”

Atticus Finch

Lawyer, Atticus Finch, defending the accused, Tom Robinson in the 1962 movie adaptation of Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Lawyer, Atticus Finch, defending the accused, Tom Robinson in the 1962 movie adaptation of Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

No town lawyer will take the court case, except Atticus Finch, a very noble man with a strong moral fiber.  Atticus knows he will lose the case, and his compassionate defense costs him many friendships, but it also earns him the respect of his two children, Jem and Scout (the novel’s narrator).  There is a wonderful subplot in the novel, where Jem and Scout try to make a reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley, “come out” of his house.  When Mr. Ewell attacks the Finch children on Halloween night, Boo Radley comes to their rescue.

Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is a masterpiece, one that will stand the test of time.  She writes about childhood innocence, the miscarriage of justice, and an antiquated but rigorous caste system that poisons a whole community.  Lee, when asked about writing another book, vowed she had said all she wanted to say.  Now, I wait with bated breath for her new publication next week, wondering what she has left unsaid.

MOVIE: The 1962 movie, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout, is a must see!  Horton Foote wrote the screenplay; Elmer Bernstein wrote the music score.  The movie won three Academy Awards.

Did you enjoy this review, singing mockingbird, and movie trailer? I would value your opinion in the comment box below. Thank you.

Would you like to receive future audio clips and reviews?  Please type your email address in the sidebar and click on the gray “Join Copley Classics” button.  That’s it!

Carpe Librum!📚Seize the Book…and let the page-turning begin!

Sarah M. Fredericks © 2015


Filed under America, AUDIO🎤, NOVEL

10 responses to “🎤🎥NOVEL: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  1. Marcus

    Hey Sarah
    I enjoyed your review very much, especially the details about Lee’s own childhood, and the influences and inspiration around her truly brilliant work. You have inspired me to read the book again!

    Yes, ‘Go Set A Watchman’ was reviewed on Channel 4 a little while back. They revealed how complex a character Atticus Finch was and has become, and now that twenty years have passed, times have changed (albeit a little), and he faces new challenges. They explained that had Lee published this new book first, quote ‘we would never have heard of her again’ – who knows?
    She was asked to do a re-write, and along came ‘Mockingbird.’ Of course, other academic scholars or reviewers may disagree. You must review this new publication too Sarah.


    • Thank you for your insightful comments, Marcus. Yes…summer is the perfect time to reread To Kill a Mockingbird. Regardless what the critics say, I will certainly read Go Set a Watchman. If it becomes a Classic, I will review it here on Copley Classics. 😊 Otherwise, I may post a review to my Facebook page, Sarah’s Great Reads, which includes reviews of modern fiction and non-fiction.


  2. Anna

    As I read your review, I felt more and more ashamed about the fact that I have never read “To Kill a Mockingbird” haha!
    I liked the fact that Lee said she had already said everything she wanted to say when asked about writing another book (so I gather that “Go Set a Watchman” has been written before “To Kill a Mockingbird”). I guess that this piece of information itself gives a lot of credit to the book.


    • You are right, Anna. I believe Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman first: it was the initial draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, but Tay Hohoff, Lee’s editor, encouraged Lee to rewrite the whole book from Scout’s point of view as a child. It took her two and a half years to do the rewrite. I have heard mixed reports about the new book. Regardless…I would still like to read it.


  3. Richard

    I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” when I was in my teens. The impression it left on me was the seductive quality of it. It draws you in from the first sentence. It has an immediacy that many authors would, I’m sure, be envious of. You are there in the heat of the courtroom and the fear of a child’s imagination. Boo Radley is the bogeyman…or is he? Childhood lessons are learned but the adults learn lessons too…

    Truman Capote was Lee’s childhood friend, depicted as Dill (if my memory serves me right), in the novel. He fantasizes about a father always just out of reach. That’s heartbreaking. The world is skewed, and to a child’s mind the twists and turns must be navigated as best they can. Bad can be good and vice-versa. Ultimately, it is up to Atticus to shine a light on justice and unravel the knots of prejudice and hate. Everyone learns a lesson. In real life, the Boo Radleys can be good. The “God fearing folk” are not always what they seem…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your insights, Richard.
      As you mentioned, the “God-fearing folk” in Lee’s novel have a skewed sense of justice. When the posse turns up at the jailhouse, demanding that Atticus turn Tom Robinson over to them, it is clear the men have every intention of killing Tom – before the trial even begins. No doubt, if they had accomplished their goal, they would still have attended church on Sunday morning.
      Yes, Dill’s story is very touching, as is little Walter Cunningham’s (Scout’s school friend). What I love about this novel is that the characters are very three-dimensional. For example, the reader may despise MayElla Ewell’s actions – accusing Tom of rape – but at the same time feel sorry for her, as she is a poverty-stricken, lonely, uneducated girl with an abusive father.


  4. CAF

    I read your post and it sparked my interest to watch the movie and read the book again. They did a great job with the movie. The book will be a good summer read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your comment about the movie, CAF. Seemingly, Lee was very happy with the adaptation (Horton Foote wrote the award-winning screen play). When she saw the 1962 movie, Lee said, “I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made.” I have to agree.


  5. Carl

    Great review Sarah! Interesting history about Harper Lee. I enjoyed the story and find it still relevant today. Curious to see her new book. Hopefully, it will compare favorably to her first book. That will be tough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Carl.
      What is interesting is that the original draft of Harper Lee’s novel was more like a collection of short stories. Under the advice of her editor/agent, Tay Hohoff, Lee spent almost two and and half years rewriting her novel, and it was finally published in 1960 in the format we know, namely, narrated from a child’s point of view (Scout). Yes…I wonder if her new book will be as good. Time will tell.


Leave a Reply to Richard Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s