Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird was first published on the 11th of July, 1960, in the United States. The book was instantly successful, and remains popular today, appearing on many reading lists.
The story follows a family living in a racially divided American south, looking at social and systemic racial discrimination through the eyes of children. The story covers the vast divide between the pursuit of justice and the desire to find someone identified as an ‘other’ guilty. There are numerous themes of compassion throughout the book, with the patriarch of the family, Atticus, attempting to instil in his children compassion for others, and not to judge by the colour of someone’s skin.
Although we, as readers, do not get to see the end result of the children growing, it is heavily implied that they do indeed grow up to represent the values which their father attempted to instil in them.
The story primarily revolves around a black man who is accused of raping a white woman, although he is physically disabled, and is therefore unlikely to have been able to carry out the rape successfully. Nearly all of the townspeople believe him to be guilty, even going so far as to form a lynch mob to kill him before any sentence is carried out. Atticus is selected to represent the accused in court and strongly believes in his innocence. It is implied in court that it was the woman’s father who had actually raped her, but she vehemently denies this. The story ends in tragedy, as the accused man is shot when attempting to escape prison; the final scene is the narrator, having grown, reminiscing about their life.