To Kill a Mockingbird has become known as a literary classic in the 56 years since it was first published. One of the reasons for the novel’s celebration is its focus on morality. Through the eyes of Scout Finch, the book explores a range of life lessons and moral dilemmas.
The plot is centred upon the unequal treatment of Tom Robinson, a man of colour who is falsely accused of rape. As the trial of this character unravels, it becomes clear that his innocence will be ignored, due the higher social status of his accuser, Bob Ewell. This not only shows that racism in the 1930s was deeply ingrained in America, but that social status is able to determine the life a person can lead.
Life can be unfair, and Harper Lee does not try to avoid the difficulties of knowing this. The outcome of Tom Robinson’s trial shows that justice cannot always be served in the ways we expect. The case is lost by Atticus Finch, and there is no happy ending for Tom Robinson. We experience the hardship of seeing the ‘villains’ of a novel (the Ewell family) left unpunished – well, until Boo Radley sets the record straight at the last moment.
Harper Lee uses Scout Finch to present many issues that young girls face growing up. Although the women in Scout’s life try to encourage her to act how a young lady is expected, Scout is too fiercely independent to listen. Yet, she soon is left to follow her own path, due to the influence of her father, Atticus. Lee is able to show us that it is moral, not aesthetical, decisions that form our best qualities, and no two people can be expected to live the same way.
Harper Lee emphasises the importance of respecting the lives of those around us. At the start of the novel, Boo Radley is seen as a maniac, kept inside at all times for the safety of the town. As Scout and Jem Finch develop a secret friendship with him, it becomes clear that he is a much more gentle and caring person, with secret personal difficulties. The reader is shown that until you can fully understand a person, you should not judge them, as you may overlook their best qualities.