To Kill a Mocking Bird is a novel that deals with serious issues of racial inequality and rape in the American society in 1930s. These are contemporary issues that affected the country during the time in which the book was written. The novel is written by Lee Harper and was published in the year 1960. The major issues of the novel involve destruction of people’s innocence and racial injustice (Johnson, 1994). This target audience of this book was the majority whites. Reading this book would make them realize the pains the African Americans went through. The novel became a model for many lawyers and a moral hero to the readers. Many scholars have noted that Harper addressed specific issues of compassion, racism, courage, class and gender roles in the Southern parts of America during the Civil Rights Movement. The characters and the plot of this novel are based on Lee’s observations, basically of her own family and neighbours. She also includes an event thought to have occurred in her hometown at the age of ten. Therefore, the novel To Kill a Mocking Bird is a good source for history because it has very many lessons to do with decry prejudice, racism, and tolerance.
It should be noted that the reader will gain a lot of educational information from the novel. Set in the town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the 1930s, the novel represents the African Americans as victims of continued oppression and racial prejudice. The novel presents politics, the economics, race relations, social constructs, setting, race relations and environment of the time. Some parts of this novel relate to the issues of comfort and safety of children in the environment. The book also challenged the social constructs of the day. Status quo in this society was a big problem during the time of writing the novel. The African Americans in the novel do not have any political powers in comparison with their oppressors. The two races presented in the novel do not relate well with one another as there are increased cases of bigotry, racial hatred and discrimination (O’Neill, 2000). Having been set in the Deep South, the novel presents the societal setting and values in advancing better understanding the economic, political and social issues of the time. The reader will gain all these educational information from the novel.
Although this novel was a success, there are several things about it that are misleading since it is a work of fiction. To begin with, the character of Atticus Finch is greatly exaggerated. In this novel, Atticus becomes a folk hero in the legal circles of the day and is also treated as if he were a real person. Sincerely speaking, there is no real-life person or lawyer who has ever done more for the public perception as compared to Finch. Therefore, Finch should be noted as a paragon in this novel. Also, the treatment of racial prejudice in Maycomb is not harshly condemned as it would be expected. This leads to a disparate perception that this novel had positive impact on racial relations although with an ambiguous reception (O’Neill, 2000). The presentation of black characters in the novel is not dimensional at all. Classical racial epithets and stereotyping of the blacks as superstitions appears to marginalize the blacks. Ideas like gender roles and race also appear over-expressed in the novel. Abusive fathers and absent mothers also make another important theme of the novel. Relating the novel to the time in which it was written, it should be noted that the average reader might be deceived when it comes to setting, dialogue and clothing in the novel. There is also a lot of stereotyping of the blacks (Lee, 1960). Basically, the novel condemns acts of racism other than the racists. For a white person to come up with a novel of this intensity is seen by many as protestation and the reason it is believed to have a number of misleading information.
Basically, popular novels give information about the time in which they were written. For example, a novel like To Kill a Mocking Bird presents information about racism and injustice faced during the time of Civil Rights Movement in United States. Such novels had been written with the intent of changing people’s mindsets and address some of the issues affecting man (Lee, 1960). Depending on the kind of information available in a novel, it will make it appealing across time. This is why present readers can gain a lot of historical information and knowledge from popular novels. However, it is not an obligation of the author to provide to the reader historical correct context for a novel since it is a work of fiction. It remains the right of such an author to willingly give such kind of historical information. It is also necessary to note that some novels provide historical information about the time in which they were written. However, sometimes it does not matter whether the information is correct or not unless the novel is an historical presentation of a given event in time (Johnson, 1994). The accuracy of a novel will significantly depend on its use and the information presented by the author. For the case of the To Kill a Mocking Bird, the novel has a lot of historical information about the Civil Rights Movements in United States during the period in which it was written. It would therefore necessary for the author to present some information about the novel however this is not mandatory.
In conclusion, the novel To Kill a Mocking Bird happens to be a good source of historical information because it has very many lessons to do with decry prejudice, racism, and tolerance. This novel presents the historical situations of the 1930s in the South parts of America (Bloom, 2006). Issues of racism, rape and social injustice have been presented in the exact manner in which they happened during the time of its writing. Despite some of the flaws in the novel, it still remains useful as a tool for teaching history. The novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird is up to this day renowned for its humour and warmth despite tackling serious issues of racial inequality and rape. This is therefore one of the greatest novels relating to the historical events of United States of the twentieth century.
Bloom, H. (2006). Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: New Press.
Johnson, C. (1994). To Kill a Mocking Bird: Threatening Boundaries. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Lee, H. (1960). To Kill a Mocking Bird. New York: J.P. Lippincott & Co.
O’Neill, T. (2000). Readings on to Kill a Mockingbird. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Shields, C. (2007). Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.