By Rhianna Cameron
To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic book, with many students across the globe reading the book during their time at school. However, Harper Lee’s 1960 novel has been removed from the reading list of an American school. This came after complaints were made by students over the language used within the book and how it made them uncomfortable.
It is clear that racial injustices are still deeply engrained in our modern society
Lee began writing the novel after the bus boycott in Montgomery in 1956, an event which helped to launch the civil rights movement in America. Her main aim for the novel was to highlight the racial and social injustices faced by African Americans within America both historically and at the time of writing. Throughout the book, Atticus teaches his daughter Scout how to empathise with others. This was also what Lee wanted the reader to do with people in their everyday life. Just as Atticus tells Scout, Lee is telling the reader that to really understand other people they should imagine themselves walking in the other person’s shoes. Literature is a great tool for making people empathise with others. It enables people to stand from outside themselves and begin to see things from a different perspective. It shows us a side of the world to which many people have been ignorant.
Literature is a great tool for making people empathise with others
People are unaware of the oppression faced by different sections of society if it doesn’t affect them. Literature is able to shine a light and educate people without them being aware.
The relevance of a 57-year-old book in today’s society is quite remarkable. The social injustices still faced by African Americans are still very much prevalent. Racial tensions in the Southern US states seem to be worsening. This was highlighted by the events in Charlottesville in August when white supremacist groups were demonstrating. A young woman died at the protest. The Black Lives Matter campaign has gained momentum as police brutality is an all too frequent news story. It is clear that racial injustices are still deeply ingrained in our modern society.
But is it the role of literature to provoke thought and social change? At its simplest form, literature is just an art form and should be admired as such. However, art also has the ability to bring about social change as it can challenge a reader’s inherent beliefs.
A novel at its finest can make us question why things are as they are
An author has the capability of creating a relationship between the reader and characters which can then be used to question the entrenched thoughts that the reader may have unconsciously about society. Literature represents the society we live in. A novel at its finest can make us question why things are as they are. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has and will continue to do just that.
Illustration: Faye Chua