The book shows a different time yet still carries a significant message -- we are all equal, or at least we should be.
"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee was not required text for me in school, though perhaps it should have been.
It has been hailed as the great American novel, and if you think about it, during the time it was published the U.S. was full of turmoil. The Civil Rights Movement was just beginning and people around the nation were fighting for people of color to fully gain their freedom as well.
"To Kill A Mockingbird" helped shed light on the dark reality that black people were considered second- and even third-class citizens.
I don't believe the book is racist -- instead it shows the sentiment of the time.
The book's premise is pretty straight forward -- a white, Southern lawyer was appointed to defend a black man accused of raping a white girl. Even though that girl was considered trash, the black man was still convicted just because he is black.
This story being told by an eight-year-old girl makes it seem innocent, yet is fraught with unintentional racism on the part of Scout. Jean Louise "Scout" Finch isn't racist on purpose, but society has made it subconsciously clear to her that black people are beneath her, despite her family's housekeeper being black.
The book is set in the 1930s, and in those times, most people just accepted that white people had their place and black people had theirs. Segregation was a way of life.
Atticus offers his voice of reason, however, and told his children, "There's nothing more sickening to me than a lowgrade white man who'll take advantage of a Negro's ignorance. Don't fool yourselves—it's all adding up and one of these days we're going to pay the bill for it. I hope it's not in your children's time."
This quote, and many others, seem to show how Atticus felt -- that black people deserved to be treated equal to white people.
Despite Atticus's outward attitude toward black people, the undertones show racism is just as ingrained in him as the rest of the town of Maycomb. Scout asked Atticus why he's defending a black person when Atticus said many people say he shouldn't be.
"For a number of reasons," said Atticus. "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again."
Basically, if Atticus didn't defend Tom Robinson, he would be shirking his duty as an attorney to uphold the law, which is to equally defend any person who needs help.
However, it is plain if given the choice, Atticus would not have taken the choice. He was, however, appointed to defend Tom Robinson.
The whole book showed the racism of the time, from the use of the N-word by adults and children alike, to how all black people lived in a slum near the town's dump.
I'm not going to lie, I had a hard time reading this book.
It took me several years to get into it. I bought my copy of "To Kill A Mockingbird" in 2008. I read the first few chapters and didn't like it, so I put it aside.
I tried again a few years down the road and did the same thing.
I picked it up a few months ago and still, I couldn't read it.
This time around, as challenged by my audience, I finally read it and now appreciate the book.
I think my struggle was Scout and her brother, Jem, and their friend, Dill, were trying so hard to get Boo Radley to come out of his house. The book seemed to focus on that for a hundred pages, so I got bored.
But this time, I understood Ms. Lee was setting up a much deeper story and I found myself devouring page after page.
It was a good read and sadly fascinating, yet unsurprising, to see how the South worked in the 1930s.