Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Neglected Review #5: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.”

This will be less of a formal review and more of a short personal reaction to the novel, which will probably not earn me any brownie points. I understand that To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those towering American classics--according to most surveys, it reigns as the quintessential American classic--but I recall feeling very underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it is a terrible novel that lacks substantial merit but it failed to leave a profound impression on me. Having never been forced to read it during high-school (it still eludes me why it was never assigned as part of the curriculum--perhaps it has something to do with the trifling Canadian education system), I took the initiative three years ago to read it myself and see what this overwhelming praise is all about. Unfortunately, it left me cold and indifferent. Soon afterwards, I even watched the movie and found it mediocre at best. Is it sacrilegious to claim Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel as overrated? I would definitely have to read this novel again and come up with substantial evidence from the text in order to back up such a contentious assertion but solely from a personal stand-point, I found the characters to be stereotypical and flat; the prose clunky and dull; the story uneven and torpid in its pacing. 

 I was able to find my initial response written three years ago after finishing the novel:

"Childhood innocence clashes with racism and social idealism in the American south during the 1930's. Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high but this novel did nothing for me--it is far too black and white, literally." 

I think that one of my biggest problems with the novel is that it deals with race in a far too simplistic manner. Perhaps that is what I meant by it being too "black and white" but since the story is told from Scout's perspective, maybe she only understands race through a confined and naive childhood lens? I don't know. Maybe I failed to fully grasp the novel's true intentions and purpose. 

For those of you who love this novel, I would be very curious to know why you feel this way. Or perhaps you can try to explain to me why I must be crazy for not thinking this is one of the greatest American novels, ever. :P


  1. I read this book when I was 13 and then studied to play adaptation at 15, so I can't be sure if I'd love it as much today as back then. What I really loved was the writing style and the characters, I don't know, the best way I can sum it up from memory is that reading it felt like a warm hug. Haha, as corny as that sounds!

  2. Not corny at all. I can definitely see this being a comforting type of novel, especially in its depiction of childhood innocence and the hope for humanity to act morally and stand up against injustice. Maybe I'm just too cynical, hehe.

  3. This is a very sincere, honest evaluation of the novel. We certainly don't see that many negative reviews of it. I read it myself years ago, in high school (here in Miami, Florida, USA). I also saw the movie, which I thought was as much of a masterpiece as the novel. I had chills going up and down my spine when Scout and her brother were taking that short cut, and Boo Radley saved them.

    As much as I loved -- and still love -- both the novel and the movie, I would have to say that, in recent years, I have discovered something that bothers me. The whole novel is actually about Atticus Finch, and how brilliantly he proved that the accused man, an African-American, in fact did NOT kill that white woman. Yes, it's admirable that he did this, thus "bucking the racist system" of the time. However, I feel saddened and disappointed by the fact that the accused man, whose name I can't even remember, was not more prominent in the story. The reader is not told much about him, and, even though Atticus proves his innocence, the poor man ends up killing himself. I don't remember if he was actually acquitted. I really have to go back and re-read this novel. But's all about Atticus. The accused man is reduced to a symbol of racism, while Atticus, a white man, is given all the praise. So that's my personal beef with this novel. Otherwise, I do think it's a great classic, but again, I really need to revisit it....

    Thanks for your interesting review!!