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To Kill a Mockingbird



“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another).” In fact, the Bible in the wrong hand can be diabolic. You can claim to own all the truths while drowning in a deluge of lies and forgeries. Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird teaches us that and many other great lessons of life.

“It is a sin to kill a mockingbird,” says the novel. Mockingbirds are innocent and harmless. Innocence should be preserved, not destroyed. Yet goodness is always under threat from evil in the human world. This is what the novel shows.

Tom Robinson is a black American in Maycomb. He is accused of raping Mayella, daughter of Bob Ewell who is nothing more than a drunkard with too many children. Actually Mayella asked Tom into the house under the pretext of helping with some repair. When she tried to seduce him, Bob Ewell entered and he beat up his daughter for what she did. He then accused Tom of molesting Mayella. Because Bob was white and Tom black and racism was rampant in America in those days.

Atticus, a white man, defends Tom and proves him innocent in the court. Yet the all-white court judges Tom guilty and rape is a capital offence in Alabama. Tom tries to run for his life but is shot to death. A mockingbird is killed.

There are other mockingbirds in the story which we witness through the eyes of the two children of Atticus. Even those children are mockingbirds who barely manage to escape death; Bob wanted to take revenge on Atticus by killing his children. Arthur (Boo) Radley is a reclusive character who lives in hiding in his own home throughout the novel though he makes his presence felt occasionally by hiding some gifts for the children of Atticus in a tree hole. He does come out once, towards the end of the novel, and that is to protect the children from Bob Ewell’s murderous attack. Boo puts an end to Bob. Goodness can win sometimes, maybe in mysterious ways.

The novel is too well-known for further elaboration. What makes the novel a classic is its fastidious refusal to succumb to cynicism in spite of the blatant victory of evil over good more than otherwise. Atticus knows he cannot win the case for the black Tom in racist Maycomb. In fact, the people of Maycomb turn against him though they all know that Tom is innocent. It is not a question of innocence for them. It is a matter of racial superiority. A black should not ever get any kind of ascendancy over the white even if the black is right and the white is wrong. Even if the black is obviously innocent and the white is appallingly guilty.

Whenever any people try to assert their cultural superiority or racial superiority or any similar superiority, people who do not belong to the culture or race or whatever become pathetic victims. Contemporary India is a good example to understand this. There is one particular community that is always anathematised no matter what the facts are or where the truths lie.

Nobody is perfect. People of any community have their own cultural and other drawbacks and peculiarities. That is no reason for making them scapegoats for whatever happens in the country. Every pandemic is not spread by them. Every drain is not clogged with their waste. Every crime is not their creation.

They may not be as innocent as mockingbirds. Mockingbirds “don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs. They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” Tom Robinson was as good as a mockingbird.

All are not Tom Robinsons. But all are not Bob Ewells either. There are more Bobs than Toms in the world. There are more people subverting human values every moment of the day and the night than upholding them. That subversion becomes not only blatant but also acceptable when culture, religion and other such apparently sacrosanct entities confer their blessings upon it. Humanity should be liberated from these narrow constructs.

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life,” Atticus tells his children, “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, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”

To Kill a Mockingbird is a mirror for us to look into. Especially when our waters are roiled by the descendants of Bob Ewells. 


PS. This is part of a series being written for the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge. The previous parts are:
14. No Exit
17. Quixote
18. The Rebel
Tomorrow: The Ugly Duckling

Comments

  1. This is amazing! This book has long been on my 'Wish-list'. To get a recommendation, and getting to know about it on the same day is simply superb. Noor has recommended this book in her post today and so good to get a glimpse of it here at your site. Thank you! I am so motivated to read it now.

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    Replies
    1. Life brings us interesting coincidences. Wish you a good time with the book.

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  2. I had bought this book about three years back on recommendation of one of my friend. I started it off well but somehow the book failed to hook me up. So it lay on my table for a while gathering dust. It was my son who during his holidays read it and forced me to finish reading it. Had it not been him, I would have deprived myself of reading a great classic with a message that is apt in today's world too!
    You have summed up the story so well Matheikal by adding the context of today's flavour.

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    Replies
    1. Actually the book can put off a reader occasionally. I too found it a bit difficult to go on sometimes. Yet reading it remains a rewarding exercise.

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  3. Discrimination is an evil that we can never get rid of no matter how many laws we make. For how would exploitation be possible without it.
    Even when Im familiar with a book I keep coming back sir for the notes you add in the end. Your perspective is enriching.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for that appreciation. It feels good to hear such things.

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  4. Agree, there are more Bobs than Toms in the world and that everybody is not Bob. But in today's scenario, Bobs are being protected and portrayed as Toms. So, the question is- Who is the real 'Tom'? Will definitely get hold of this one.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, the situation today is more complex than in this novel where things were clearly black and white. Yet it's not very difficult to see through the miasma today too. What is lacking is a political will. Rather what is lacking is a political vision.

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  5. When you wrote, a mocking bird is killed, I had goosebumps. I was engrossed in the review. Gripping tale of innocence and evil deeds.

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  6. This is one book I wanted to read. After going through your post I am tempted to add this to my TBR list.

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  7. This was one of those books that made me sit and ponder much after finishing. Atticus may have lost the trial but he had won in making his point. This tale reflects the blaring truth of the unjust world. It rings true even today, as you have pointed out. Mockingbirds suffer while the Bob Ewells walk free.

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    Replies
    1. Good books always haunt us long after we have finished reading. What it means, among other things, is that you are a good reader.

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  8. For once our book recommendations coincide! Love this one.
    www.nooranandchawla.com

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  9. This book gives one to ponder upon much after it is over. It is such a favourite with everyone in the family. It is richly textured novel, woven from the strands of small-town life with characters one can relate to.Highly recommend to those who haven't read it.

    https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com

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    Replies
    1. A highly positive vision sustains it despite the evil that pervades it.

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  10. I have to read this book.
    Classic. Apt lessons.
    Feeling sorry for Tom.

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  11. I have read this book... And that too twice... The first time I read I was too young to understand the book wholly and solely... So after a few years I had read it again... There are some books you can actually read multiple times and each time you read you understand new depths of the book... This is one such book! I loved the way you have reviewed it too... :)

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    Replies
    1. Classics demand many re-reads. Happy to know you liked this.

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  12. I picked this book a few years ago and couldnt go beyond a few pages. It has been lying abandoned on my book shelf since then. Have been meaning to read it... the hype/buzz around it is too much... hope to read it with patience this time. Thanks for the nudge.

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    1. Welcome for the nudge. I hope you'll enjoy reading the book now.

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  13. I admit, I have a tremendous sex drive. My boyfriend lives forty miles away. Hey, i am looking for an online sexual partner ;) Click on my boobs if you are interested (. )( .)

    ReplyDelete

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