Harper Lee is classic
Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is about a young girl, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, who witnesses prejudice in Maycomb, her hometown. The book sold millions of copies and became a favorite book for all ages to enjoy. Any book can be popular due to the plot or the writing style, but that does not mean that it is a classic. My definition of a classic is a book in which the message has never ceased to be meaningful. Moreover, the climax is relatable to dilemmas in society and the characters should demonstrate their knowledge of what they learn. To Kill a Mockingbird meets the standards of a “timeless classic” because of its enduring morals and its connection to real life, character growth, and the ambiguity.
The cause of To Kill a Mockingbird being a “timeless classic” is due to the enduring lessons of the book and how it relates to real life. When Atticus defends Tom Robinson during the trial, he explains the incident from his point of view and reveals how racism is the reason for everyone’s false accusations. Atticus lectures, “You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire” (204). The typical assumption is: Tom is black, black is evil, therefore Tom is evil. Atticus is trying to convince everyone that white men commit terrible deeds too and that no one should distinguish a human being of their color. In reality, just like in the novel, many people are categorized by their skin or religion and that is a major problem in society today. But, Atticus reminds the readers that they should not judge others harshly. Another event is when Mrs. Dubose, an old and impolite lady, unnecessarily annoys Jem and Scout everyday when they pass by her house. Jem takes the mature choice and ignores her. He conveys Scout, “Don’t pay any attention to her, just hold your head high and be a gentleman” (101). This statement is something that Scout and Jem find difficult to pursue at the beginning of the book, that taking the righteous high ground means that you will be discriminated against. In real life, bullying is a huge issue, but being strong like Jem and following his example is a lesson worth learning from the book. He and Scout eventually come over many obstacles and progress in their learning stage.
The development of the main characters qualifies To Kill a Mockingbird as a “timeless classic”. When Boo Radley kills Bob Ewell in order to save the children, Sheriff Tate and Atticus decide whether or not they should charge him for murder. When Atticus reaches his final decision, he asks Scout whether or not she understands how Ewell died. Scout reassures, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” (276). Scout makes the link between mockingbirds and Boo Radley. He represents an innocent songbird because he does nothing but leave presents for the children, covers Scout with a blanket during a fire, and later, saves their lives from Ewell. She generates this relation based on what her father told her earlier about how it is a sin to shoot mockingbirds and she applies the connection in a real scenario. Another example character growth is when Scout and Jem were debating about the Cunninghams when Jem realizes something. Jem explains to Scout, “If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time… it’s because he wants to stay inside” (227). Jem demonstrates that he comprehend people’s feelings. He is eager to know why people hate other and relates that to why Boo stays at home. By asking questions, he exhibits his curiosity about the events going on around him. In real life, the awareness of knowing why people take certain actions is essential to increasing sympathy.
Many think there is no depth in To Kill a Mockingbird but there is, only if someone digs below the surface. Allen Barra, an author from the Wall Street Journal, protested that the book should not be considered a classic. In his article, “What ‘To Kill a Mockingbird Isn’t’”, he states that “there is no ambiguity” in the book because “at the end of the book, we know exactly what we knew at the beginning”. This is somewhat true because we know from the start of the novel that Atticus is an honest man, Tom Robinson is innocent, and racism is horrible. But, the author is observing everything through his obvious lenses and not attempting to identify evidence to analyze. Sam Jordison, a reporter from The Guardian, supports Lee for ambiguity. In his review of the story, he mentions, “We are even asked to understand why someone like Walter Cunningham might join a lynch mob”. There are many ideas for Cunningham’s action, but the idea can be supported if there is reasonable evidence. If there is no particular evidence to justify Cunningham’s deed, then there is absolute vagueness in the book and the readers are left to infer for themselves.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a “timeless classic” because of the morals and its relation to the outside world, character development, and the vagueness. Because it is a “timeless classic”, it should be part of the high school required reading list as the topic of racial issues is important and no one can ignore them. To Kill a Mockingbird is a reminder of racial profiling and it provides us with Tom Robinson’s perspective of racism. There were many cases similar to his where the innocent person was charged with a crime they did not commit. We can feel ashamed of our mistakes, but people can reflect on them and become a moral being. Future generations should know the faults committed before, so they do not create the same ones. In addition, students can study the characters’ essential quotes by dissecting the deeper meaning of it in order to make a first impression of them. By doing that, we can understand the character’s point of view and why they take certain actions. Only a classic allows for in-depth analysis, and To Kill a Mockingbird achieves that by teaching the world precious morals through a child’s eye.