Yes, I will say it big and bold, though it may be. To Kill a Mockingbird is the best American novel ever written by a “one -hit wonder” of a writer named Harper Lee in 1960. That is my opinion and I strongly recommend the book to everybody, especially those wanting to understand the Southern part of the United States. This novel tells the story of what it means to have grown up in the South in the earlier part of the 20th century. In fact, in some ways, it remained the story of the south in which I grew up.
I challenge anybody that hasn’t already read this wonderful book to read it already!! I read it in school and it has had a strong impact on my thinking and feeling though out my entire life. It became, if you will, part of my very soul.
It tells the story of a Black man in the 1950’s that is accused of rape of a white woman. The woman was a member of the most “white trash” family in the town. Gregory Peck played the part of Atticus, the lawyer, in the movie version of the book admirably. Atticus (the lawyer defending the black accused of rape) is the main character’s father, and she speaks in innocence and love to the bigotry and racial hatred of the time period and prevents a lynching although not a racially biased guilty verdict. Of course, it was a foregone conclusion that the man was going to be found guilty.
It also has much to say about outcasts and those that do not fit in. Just remembering the story as I am writing this is bringing tears to my eyes.
I think part of why I am so affected: so PROFOUNDLY affected is because of the tie in with the old south that was part and parcel of my upbringing. I know this sort of bigotry close up and personal. I was also one of the outcasts, the oddballs, those looked down on, and know some of the themes of the book from an inside-out perspective.
And yes, this is the only novel that Harper Lee ever wrote until recently when someone went into her files and pulled out a sort of prequel. She did so some reporting, and worked with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood. It seems, to me, almost like she was put on the planet to write this one story that so badly needed telling. That is another piece of why I love this book so much. Who knows if she had written other novels it might have diluted the impact of this one.
Have you read it? Do you question my assertion of it being the best American novel, if so what would you suggest is?