What do you do when you become aware of racism and the frequent stupidity of adults? This is the question "To Kill a Mockingbird" grapples with and, in the process, brings to life one of the great American novels, bursting with memorable lines and hard truths.
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."
Placed in the American Deep South, the book follow the childhood of the protagonist Jean Louise 'Scout' Finch who must increasingly learn that adults are not what they always seem.
“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”
At the same time, Harper Lee hammers one message over and over again.
“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
These folks, like anywhere in the world, have opinions, thoughts, and expectations - especially when it comes to others. But Harper Lee shows that opinions come cheap, and what matters are truth and conscience.
"They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions," said Atticus, but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience."
In today's world of professional obfuscation and lying (Marketing, Public Relations, etc.), To Kill a Mockingbird offers a simple way to look for truth.
"Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts."
Eventually, the narrative goes deeper and deeper into the choices people make, our delusions and errors.
"There are just some kind of men who—who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results."
“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash."
A scathing rebuke of racism, To Kill a Mockingbird is also a template on how to live in a world that often asks us to abandon our conscience.
“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”
“You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat. Try fightin' with your head for a change."
Without a doubt, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the easiest book recommendations to give. It's a wonderful read that carries a taste of childhood and the conflict between innocence, adulthood, and ignorance.