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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee Reading this book ended up being more of an experience than a story. Each chapter, especially in the first half of the novel, is a miniature part of a larger picture the book paints of growing up in 1930s Alabama. With the second half ending up being more about wider humanity, specially the prevalence of racism and the life of women at that time. Along with these themes, throughout the novel there is a kind of moral code, embodied in Atticus, the protagonist's father who is a lawyer, of compassion and non-judgement of others.

It is in the treatment of these themes that I feel To Kill a Mockingbird loses its flavour. The women of the town felt rather dull and cliché, and the contrast this forms with Scout seemed a boring and too obvious a point about female opportunities. Even the moral lessons that seem to be part of just about every chapter seemed simplistic and nothing new.

Where I found the book the most interesting was in the courtroom scenes and in the descriptions of how black people lived in a time so close to the civil rights movement. I knew black people had things tough in America, especially in the South, during most of the 20th century, but the sheer poverty and total segregation shown here is almost unbelievable.

For me the novel would have been much improved if there could have been less of the languid pacing that pervaded the first half, I feel the book could have lost about fifty pages or so without Jem and Scout’s adventures losing their charm.