Literature, like all other forms of art, has a great impact on readers’ personal lives and on our history as a society. Writers have a special platform to discuss life’s biggest questions and address both the positive and negative aspects of humanity through storytelling. On February 19th, the world lost one of its best storytellers. Harper Lee used her work to reflect on her own past to show readers around the world the intricacies of life in the Southern United States during a time of deep seeded racism and segregation. Her most famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, had a particularly great impact on my life and to this day remains my favorite novel.
TKAM, for me, was one of the most relatable stories I had ever read. I had recently moved from the Deep South where I spent the majority of my childhood; my father was studying to be a lawyer and was often as annoyingly insightful as Atticus; and, though I was not nearly as brave as the main character, Scout, I did consider myself somewhat of a tomboy and had grown up playing with the boys. I was in 8th grade when I first read TKAM and found myself at a place where I was conflicted about my background and my home in Mississippi. Like Scout, I had grown up relatively sheltered. As I grew older, learning about the horrors and the disregard for human life that occured in the place I considered home was shocking.
Still from the 1962 film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird
Moreover, Lee’s beautiful work helped me understand where these thoughts reside in the grand scheme of things. While the novel ends tragically and the issues of racism and bigotry in the novel are not in the least bit solved, it does provide a hope for the future and reaffirmation of the value of human kindness and perspective. And the novel reflects how these issues remained pressing for long after the brief moment of history that sets the story. This novel came at such a crucial time for me and for many others. It reminded me of the beautiful camaraderie and kindness of my home, and taught me not to dwell on the problems of society, but rather to take action to correct those problems and have hope for the future. Lee’s novel is a beautiful story that will be impactful and provide hope for years to come.