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To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

When does a child come of age? Is it when s/he hits puberty? Is it when s/he legally turns into an adult? Or is it when s/he learns that the world isn’t all good as s/he thinks it is?

There’s a reason Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is part of school syllabus. Not every novel can impart life lessons to children seamlessly. There’s a reason Lee had a Pulitzer Prize to her credit. Not every author can convey to the reader what goes on in a child’s mind through an adult’s view. But Lee’s writing does not just do that, but also reiterates, in a manner that’s ominous, and yet, commonplace, that racism exists. She establishes right from the beginning, that the world isn’t a kind place, even for children. Before you know it, they are robbed of their innocence and pushed into a world full of injustice, unfairness, and inequality.

The story begins with ‘Scout’ Finch narrating about the summer she spent with her brother Jem, and their summertime neighbour Dill, as children, in a small town called Maycomb in Alabama. Together, they play and enact all the stories they’ve ever heard or read, and occasionally get a kick out of trespassing on the recluse ‘Boo’ Radley’s property.

The children’s innocence begins to crumble when their father Atticus Finch, a lawyer, takes up the case of defending a black man wrongly accused of raping a white girl. Scout and Jem are teased and humiliated by their schoolmates for being the children of a “nigger-lover”. The children, who’ve been raised by a father who believes in equality and justice, and who have a kind and loving black woman for a cook, find it very hard to understand racial discrimination. In fact, when they attend the case, the children sit in the “coloured balcony” with the blacks.

The author is bent on showing the innocence of not only children, but also the oppressed—the blacks, and the recluse Boo. Calpurnia, the Finch’s cook, and her community welcome the children to their church with open arms. Boo, whom most consider an outcast, almost a ghost, anonymously leaves gifts for the children. In fact, he lands up coming out into the light, to save the children from danger. After this incident, Scout is no longer interested in annoying Boo or enacting his life.

In the beginning of the book, Scout is a little girl who has no idea of the oppression and discrimination certain people face in their lives. While she doesn’t hate them (in fact, she doesn’t see them very differently), she’s also unaware of their pains. But towards the end, Scout begins to understand the black community’s struggles and the judgemental behaviour against people like Boo. Ultimately, while she’s still a girl, Scout becomes aware of the unfair ways of the world. However, her faith in humanity remains unshaken, thanks to people like Calpurnia and Boo, the innocents, the sweet mockingbirds.

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