Literary Criticism of Harper Lee’s – To Kill a Mockingbird

Literary Criticism of Harper Lee’s– To Kill a Mockingbird

To Eliminate a Mockingbird holds an unique position in America’s literary canon. It is both one of the most extensively read books of the last century, winning the Pulitzer in the year of its publication.

Nevertheless, for about thirty years after its publication it got minimum vital attention, and was mainly thought about to be a pleasant read instead of an extensive statement on America’s social history. After that, nevertheless, it started to draw in a big quantity of vital attention, both appreciation and derision, till it was ranked as a book that was ‘most mentioned as making a difference in people’s life’, 2nd only to the Bible. (Johnson 14)

This is the only book by Harper Lee, and she generally refrained from discussing her work apart from some uncommon interviews. The work, according to many has deep autobiographical elements inspired from real life settings and occurrences. The novel addresses the problem of bigotry in the Far South, and is considered to be a strong declaration against bigotry.

On a purely moral front, Atticus Finch has ended up being a sort of good example for a generation: a genuine symbol of a male standing by his own suitables and beliefs regardless of prevalent social opposition. Some ethnocritics have slammed the book for its usage of specific language and terms that, in an inverted way, in fact re-establishes racism in a subtle way. The book, despite dealing with these rather major concerns, is garbed in a diction that is packed with irony and humor, making the book an unique contribution to the American literary canon.

The Autobiographical Element in ‘To Eliminate a Mockingbird’

The autobiographical components in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ were a major source of debate during the book’s release. Although Lee has actually insistently denied any direct autobiographical inspiration behind the characters of her novel, yet parallels have actually been drawn and stress of autobiography have actually been revealed by critics and pals for many years.

Atticus Finch is based largely on Lee’s daddy Amasa Coleman Lee, a lawyer who was a champ of civil rights and an advocate of racial equality. Although he was not as radical and avowed reformist as Finch in the novel, yet he did defend African American causes. Amasa Lee as soon as protected two black men who were implicated of murder.

The trial left such a lasting impression in him that he never battled a case after the convicts were implicated, hanged and mutilated. Amasa Lee grew more liberal with growing years on the question of racial equality and frequently voiced his opinions in the Monroeville paper, which he modified and to which he frequently contributed.

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Maycomb, the imaginary Southern town where Lee sets her unique bears close similarity to her hometown, Monroeville. (Goria 76) The racial question was quite central to the society of her native Monroeville, even after segregation was formally knocked.

Parallels have also been drawn in between the central character of Scout And Harper Lee herself, who according to Marianne M. Moates, was ‘a rough ‘n’ ready gamine … she had actually cropped hair, wore coveralls, went barefoot, and could talk mean like a kid’. (Moates …)

We find more referrals to her actual life from the works of Truman Capote, who lived long at Monroeville, and was close to Lee. Together they described each other as the ‘apart individuals’, typing deal with an old Underwood typewriter. It is hypothesized that Truman Capote himself might be the design for Dill, Scout and James’ ‘summertime’ good friend.

One of the most significant debates were woven round the character of Tom Robinson. Numerous attempts have been made to find his identity, and the character can have its origins in the regional history of Monroeville. A white woman accused Walter Lee, a black man for raping her: an event that was covered in the newspaper of her dad when she was 10. (Matthew A3)

Although the charges were found to be incorrect, the convict passed away of tuberculosis in jail. The incidents may likewise be passively influenced by the scandal surrounding the infamous Scottsboro Boys. (Johnson 11) Emmett Till, one of the biggest instant factors behind the break out of the Civil liberty movement was also most likely one of the immediate motivations behind the character. (Shields 118)

Central Problems in To Eliminate a Mockingbird

Probably the best reason behind the appeal of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird is its topicality and its deft handling of issues that were not only burning ones at her time, however are of terrific relevance even today. The first part of the book is nearly entirely devoted towards examining the life of the children in the Southern town. The fascination of the kids towards their next-door neighbor Boo Ridley, who was a secretive and even a shadowy character lurking like an unidentified existence in their area, pervades the very first part of the novel.

The significance provided to Boo Ridley and his shadowy presence, along with the detailing of his house, has motivated some critics to classify the novel as a Gothic fiction, complicating the concern of generic categorization that the novel has actually always brought in. It has actually been typically observed that it is not the characters who lead the unique in the first half, but the spirit of the American South.

The Deep South encounters like a being with almost a palpable existence, assisting characters into acting in the method they do. (Fred 2) It is therefore no surprise that much of the novel’s early destination grew from a sense of secret related to life in the South: its racial questions, its wilderness, its peculiar social custom-mades consisting of the fixation with households and private genealogies, leading to an over-active caste system.

Nevertheless, this exotic appeal of the very first half of the novel lead to a much deeper and more grave race concern in the second part of the novel. Today, around fifty years after its publication, the book is seen to be ostensibly a work on racial oppression. To complicate the concern, the book is set at a time of socio-economic shift of the South, when brand-new relationships were being exercised amongst antagonistic factions of the society.

Such a process of shift typically causes regimentation, a desperate attempt to fit in currently established categories of one’s ideological belonging, which becomes racial in this case. The consistent usage of models is noteworthy in the book. The blacks are almost dehumanized by the whites and are presented more as types than as individuals.

They are generally ‘foolish, pitiful, unprotected, and dependant upon the fair dealing of the whites, rather than his own intelligence to save him’. (Siegel 133) When Atticus Finch stands up to fight for Tom Robinson, a sequence of occasions occur that bring this racial stress and anxiety and even fear to the fore. The attack on Scout and the general opposition to Atticus’ action of defending Robinson are a few of the occurrences.

Atticus Finch’s commitment can be seen to be generally to break the misconception of evil, immature, foolish, and sexually starved black guy. It is not simply the accuser in microcosm, and the white prejudices in macrocosm that he is battling versus, he is fighting versus a stereotype: a stereotype that established in the South for over years, and took the most extreme form during the time of a socio-economic shift.

Nevertheless, it must be remembered at this moment that Lee’s treatment of the procedure of racial injustice is more in depth, extensive and problematic than a monolithic painting of characters in black and white. What makes To Eliminate a Mockingbird particularly rich, is the way the racial concern is intrinsically linked to questions of class and gender.

Lee’s treatment of the concern of class in Southern society has frequently inspired critics to determine her, at an extremely standard level, with Jane Austen. It can not be rejected that the issues shared by the 2 were rather similar. Jean Blackwell clearly spells out the resemblances between the two when she states that for both Austen and Lee, the primary goal was ‘affirmation of order in society, obedience, courtesy, and regard for the individual without regard for status’. (Blackwell) The easily appreciable tone of satire and paradox is another commonalities between the two.

Individuals from all across the class spectrum are brought into play in the book. The fact that she positions the first individual narrator in the center class position, helps her cause as it enables her to take a look at society from both above and below. Characters like Calpurnia, the black cook of the Finch household; Walter Cunningham and Aunt Alexandra show numerous class attitudes that were prevalent in the Southern society at the time of the Great Anxiety and immediately after it.

Likewise, the unique betrays gender issues at great depth. The strong willed Calpurnia and Miss Maudie, in addition to Mayella Ewell offer examples of female independence of spirit working within a mainly patriarchal setting. Scout also challenges gender stereotypes in her ways of dressing, actions and her dedication towards here faith in human equality. Dean Shackleford elucidates the issue of this gender question in the following terms:

‘Lee slowly demonstrates that Scout id becoming a feminist in the South, for with making use of first person narration, she suggests that Scout/ Jean Louise still keeps the ambivalence about being a Southern lady she possessed as a child’. (Shackleford 101)

The mothers in the novel are absent and the dads are typically violent- this types another significant concern of Lee’s book. This is extremely accountable for the society to go astray and develops the standard patriarchal society with the total lack of the moms.

Atticus Finch: The Hero and the Design

Among the greatest reasons for the popularity of To Eliminate a Mockingbird is the integrity and adherence to one’s concepts as depicted by the character of Atticus Finch. Finch has actually gone beyond from being a major character in an unique to become practically a symbol of moral strength in legal circuit. Whatever be the factor behind the enormous appeal of Atticus Finch, one can not reject from a critical point of view that the greatest source of the character’s tourist attraction is his ethical ambivalence.

Atticus Finch has actually gone beyond spatio-temporal boundaries to be counted as a role model in the legal profession in particular, and mankind at big. Nevertheless, Atticus is strongly rooted in his time. In spite of being a champion of equivalent rights and harvesting a strong dissent versus the racial prototypes those were prevalent in his time, Atticus works from within the legal circuit to eliminate the evils.

There are 2 sides to this action, and adds to the character’s richness. First, it foregrounds order as it reveals an honorable attempt to address deep rooted racist concerns from within the institutionalized system of law. On the other hand, this very technique has drawn criticism, since critics state that in spite of his radical view towards bigotry, Finch works from well within the sexist and the racial organizations that were operative throughout that time.

Significance in– To Eliminate a Mockingbird

The very title, To Eliminate a Mockingbird itself has great deals of symbolic connotation, which is used in the structure up of the plot. The destruction of the innocence by the wicked forces and social vices represents the concept mentioned in the title of the novel. The buffooning bird is symbolic of the innocence and hence, to kill a mocking bird corresponds to the death of the innocence.

It is probably for this factor that a kid storyteller is utilized who looks at the social vices of the time. Innocence disappears in the characters of the Dill, Jem, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson and Mr. Robinson with the development of the plot. These characters are determined as the buffooning birds, which lose their innocence with time.

When Mr. Underwood describes the unforeseen death of Tom Robinson as “the ridiculous massacre of songbirds”, then most likely, he is describing the title of the book. Once again, the mention of Scout that it would resemble “shootin’a mockingbird” harming Boo Radley highlights the style of Lee’s book. Afraid of the racial injustice and the threatened innocence, Miss Maudie says to Scout that “Mockingbirds do not do something but … sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to eliminate a mockingbird.”

There is an oblique mean the validation of the title of the book in the surname of the family- Finch. Mockingbird, the symbol of innocence, first appears in the unique when Atticus provides the air rifles of the kids for shooting. He alerts the children that if they want they can eliminate the bluejays but they ought to remember not “to eliminate a mockingbird” as it is a sin to do so.

To kill a mocking bird just means the death of the safe and the innocence. To make any ethical statement, Lee is seen to refer back time and once again to the symbol of mockingbird, which represents compassion, peace and innocence.

Once again the killing of the innocence and the youth roughly is established through the development of To Eliminate a mockingbird. The transition of the childlike innocence to the adult viewpoint is brought out very deftly with the altering attitude of the kids toward Boo Radley. The innocent Boo in the start of the unique grows up to an established and totally human towards completion of the book.

Boo’s innocence is ruined by the behavior of his vicious daddy. Boo is the most considerable sign, which represents the spotless mockingbirds and the existence of the good within the evil within the heart of the people. In spite of the sufferings of Boo, he still listens to his heart while intermingling with the kids. He is the supreme symbol of good that still sticks around in the middle of the vices in of matured world.

Through the different signs and images introduced in the unique, Lee brings out the ethical character of the humans. The great and evil are juxtaposed and at the exact same time is well balanced correctly. To handle the different styles of the unique, symbolization plays a great function and makes To Kill a Mockingbird a great success.

Narrative Design of– To Eliminate a Mockingbird

The storytelling approach, which was embraced by Lee, elevates this unique to a remarkable work. The gifted art of storytelling makes Harper Lee one of the most popular authors of her age. The visual type of art and the subtlety with which she manages her characters and plot binds her work as a total whole.

She utilizes a child storyteller and a matured woman to see things from various perspectives. The voice of the child storyteller makes a close observation on the important things and the happenings, while the lady’s classic reflection on her youth memories develops a type of aura in the book. The appropriate blending of the adult world and the world of the innocence represent the substantial appeal of To Eliminate a Mockingbird. The novel traces the economic crisis of both the world which are wrapped in covert motivations. The option of vocabulary and the language creates a world, which is very own of Lee.

Lee very dexterously mixes humor within the awful plot of the book. This is supported by the view of the distinguished scholar called Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin, who says: “Laughter … exposes the gangrene under the lovely surface area but also by demeaning it; one can barely … be managed by what one is able to make fun of.” (Tavernier-Courbin, 2007) There are a number of areas that supply humor within the story line. There is subtle humor in the mentioning of the Scout’s behavior with the kids and her strong dislike for placing on gown.

The irony, parody and satire in To Eliminate a Mockingbird are used by Lee to handle the intricate issues within the book. The use of the narrative by the child builds up the complexities. Scouts way of bring in Dill towards her by asking him to beat her up actually paves the way to the complicated problems in the novel. The satirical touch utilized in the description of Scout’s very first day in school is undoubtedly the result of the creative mind of Lee, which is open to the hardcore real situations.

Paradox, the major weapon of Lee in dealing with the style of class, gender and bigotry puts her to among the superior class of writers. While mentioning about Maycomb’s likeness for bigotry however still preserving some type of decency in the society, Lee utilizes paradox with excellent care. In picking the extremely title To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee carefully introduces paradox and satire.

She implicates the educational system, justice structure and societal pattern of her time however at the same time includes humor while dealing with it. She thoroughly handles the social vices with the proper use of satire, irony and humor. The presented humor likewise, sometimes, paves ground for lots of home entertainment.

Functions Mentioned

1. Johnson, Claudia Durst. To Eliminate a Mockingbird: Threatening Borders. New York: Twayne, 1994.

2. Moates. A Bridge of Youth: Truman Capote’s Southern Years.

3. Gloria, Steinam. ‘Go Right Ahead and Ask Me Anything (And So she Did): An Interview with Truman Capote. McCalls.

4. Matthew, Bigg. Unique Still Stirs Pride, Argument: Mockingbird Draws Tourists to Coming to Grips with its Past. The Washington Post: 09.23.2007

5. Erisman, Fred. ‘The Romantic Regionalism of Harper Lee’. The Alabama Review XXVI, April: 1973.

6. Siegel, Roslyn. The Black Guy and the Macabre in American Literature’. Black American Literature Forum 10: 1976.

7. Blackwell, Jean. ‘Valorizing the Commonplace: Harper Lee’s Reaction to Jane Austen’ in Alice Petry ed. On Harper Lee: Essays and Reflections. University of Tennessee Press, 2007.

8. Shackleford, Dean. ‘The Female Voice in To Kill a Mockingbird: Story Strategies in Film and Unique’. Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures 50: (Winter Season 1996-1997)

9. Bloom, Harold. Harper Lee’s To Eliminate a Mockingbird: Harper Lee. Los Angeles: Chelsea Home, 2006.

10. Tavernier-Courbin, Jacqueline. Humor and Humankind in To Eliminate a Mockingbird in Alice Petry (ed.): On Harper Lee: Essays and Reflections. Memphis: University of Tennessee Press, 2007.