“To Kill a Mockingbird” Review

January 30, 2024/Banned Books
Want to listen to our full podcast and skip the reading? Go ahead – hit play. Feel free to subscribe.

Unveiling the Story Behind “To Kill a Mockingbird”: A Dive into Banned Books

In the vast realm of literature, certain books stand out not just for their compelling narratives but for the controversies that surround them. In this blog post, we embark on a journey to explore one such masterpiece – “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. This American classic has not only left an indelible mark on literature but has also faced its fair share of challenges, being banned and contested in various settings.

Overview of “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a poignant exploration of racial injustice, moral growth, and empathy set against the backdrop of the 1930s in the American South. The novel, narrated through the eyes of Scout Finch, provides a powerful narrative that transcends time, addressing issues that remain relevant today.

Harper Lee and Her Background

Harper Lee, born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, was an enigmatic figure in American literature. Here are several key details about her life:

Early Years and Education:

  • Childhood in the South: Lee grew up in a small town in Alabama, which later served as the model for the fictional town of Maycomb in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
  • Close Friendship with Truman Capote: Lee formed a lifelong friendship with Truman Capote, a renowned author, while they were children. She even served as a research assistant for Capote’s famous work, “In Cold Blood.”
  • Education: Lee attended Huntingdon College and then transferred to the University of Alabama. She eventually moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer.

Writing Career:

  • “To Kill a Mockingbird”: Lee’s debut novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was published in 1960. The book, set in the 1930s, addresses themes of racial injustice, moral growth, and compassion through the eyes of young Scout Finch. It became an instant classic and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961.
  • Impact and Success: The success of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was immense. The novel was adapted into an acclaimed film and has been a staple in school curricula, touching the hearts of millions worldwide.

Personal Life and Later Years:

  • Private Life: Lee was famously private, shying away from the public eye after the success of her novel. She rarely gave interviews or public appearances.
  • Second Novel: For decades, Lee didn’t release any new work. However, in 2015, a sequel titled “Go Set a Watchman” was published, initially written before “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It provided an earlier draft and different perspective on some of the characters, especially Atticus Finch.
  • Legacy and Honors: Harper Lee’s impact on literature and society has been monumental. She received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, recognizing her contribution to American literature.

Later Life and Passing:

  • Health and Later Years: Lee lived a relatively quiet life in her hometown of Monroeville, rarely making public appearances. Reports suggested declining health in her later years.
  • Passing: Harper Lee passed away on February 19, 2016, at the age of 89. Her death marked the end of an era in American literature, leaving behind a legacy through her timeless novel that continues to spark discussions about justice, morality, and empathy.

Harper Lee’s life was marked by the extraordinary success of her debut novel, her profound impact on literature, and her steadfast commitment to portraying social issues and human compassion through her writing.

Banning and Controversies

the United States since its publication in 1960. The reasons for its banning have been diverse but often center around several key points:

Reasons for Banning:

  1. Racial Themes: One of the primary reasons cited for the book’s banning is its exploration of racial themes and the portrayal of racism in the American South. Some critics argue that the book’s content is too mature or uncomfortable for certain age groups.
  2. Language and Profanity: The use of strong language and profanity in the novel has also been a point of contention for some educators and parents, leading to challenges in school curricula.
  3. Sexual Content: Some objections stem from the book’s discussion of sensitive topics related to rape and sexuality.
  4. Challenges to Authority: The novel also has faced challenges for its portrayal of authority figures and their actions, which some have deemed disrespectful or undermining.

Instances of Banning:

  • Schools and Libraries: “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been challenged or banned in numerous schools and libraries across the United States over the years. These challenges have led to discussions about its place in educational settings and the appropriateness of its content for certain age groups.
  • Various States and Years: Banning or challenges to the book have occurred in states like Mississippi, Virginia, Texas, and others, at different times since its publication.

Continued Controversies:

The ongoing debates around “To Kill a Mockingbird” exemplify the tension between the book’s perceived literary value and the discomfort some individuals or groups feel about its content, leading to recurring attempts to restrict its availability or inclusion in school curricula.

Despite the banning attempts, many argue for the book’s importance in confronting issues of racism, social justice, and moral growth, asserting that its themes are crucial for fostering discussions on empathy and understanding.

Understanding the controversies surrounding the book’s banning sheds light on the challenges it has faced due to its themes and content, while also highlighting the ongoing relevance of its messages in society.

Why is “To Kill a Mockingbird” Assigned in Schools?

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is commonly assigned in school curricula across the United States. Students often encounter this novel in middle school or high school, typically between the grades of 7 to 10, though this can vary depending on the school district and the teacher’s discretion.

The choice of when to include “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the curriculum is often based on its themes, complexity, and the maturity level of the students. Teachers may select it as part of their English or literature classes to explore important topics such as racism, moral growth, social justice, and empathy.

The novel’s rich narrative and the depth of its themes make it a valuable educational tool for engaging discussions and critical thinking among students. It’s frequently chosen to prompt thoughtful reflections on societal issues and to encourage students to consider different perspectives.

Final Thoughts

It is essential to recognize the enduring impact of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and its significance in addressing societal issues. By confronting uncomfortable truths, the novel challenges readers to reflect on their own perspectives and encourages conversations that transcend time.

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a Black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.

“To Kill a Mockingbird”

More Banned Book Podcasts from The TodCast PodCast

If you enjoyed the conversation between Eric, Todd, and special guest Abby Hersey, we have more in store for you this season on the podcast. Todd and Eric Hersey will be reviewing more banned books – including “1984”, “Fahrenheit 451”, and even “Harry Potter”.

Be sure to subscribe if you want these awesome audio files coming right to your phone.