Harper Lee together with Margaret Mitchell and Jerome David Salinger belong to the American writers best known for only one of their books or, as in the case of Lee, those who have actually wrote only one book that immediately brought them widespread popularity, but did not evolve into an ongoing writing career.
To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and immediately won critical acclaim. Although the opinions of the critics ranged wildly, the major opinion was that the book is something genuinely new in the field of American literature, for it touched upon a number of issues that were not all that popular at the time: the partiality of the law, the inequality of people and, most notably, of the representatives of different races, gender roles, and so on.
Having a lot of autobiographical material at its basis, To Kill a Mockingbird centers on the story of an idealistic lawyer Atticus Finch and his defendant, Tom Robinson, – a Negro accused of raping a white girl. Although there is no corroborative evidence and both the girl and her father hardly can be described as deserving to be trusted, Tom Robinson is convicted and later shot, when he attempts to escape. Harper Lee said that this case was loosely based on an incident in her father’s life, who was an attorney as well and once defended two black men accused of murder, convicted, executed and mutilated, which made him refuse his further law career.
The novel centers on the fact that the color of the person’s skin does not define his or her intrinsic qualities. Tom Robinson, “a hard-working Negro” and a respectable member of society is a much better person, than those who state that he wronged them: a town’s drunk and his friendless daughter, Mayella Ewell. But when both of them accuse him of raping Mayella, they immediately turn into the beings of a higher kind only because they are white, not because of their personal merits. Although Atticus Finch agrees that people are not right in what concerns their abilities, financial standing, characters and skills, he states that there is one and only one place, where all people should be equal – the courtroom. He denounces the society that puts the fact of belonging to this or that race, which is not anybody’s choice, above actual acts of a person.
The novel turned out to be the…