Presented this for my Project 2 at KTM
My speech today is something to do with Books and indeed 3 of my greatest passions after shopping are Reading, Travelling and Choreography. For my project 2, I will make a humble attempt to take you through one on my favorite books called ‘To kill a mocking bird’ by American author Harper Lee.
Mockingbird is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Harper Lee published in 1960 which is considered a classic modern American literature. The primary theme of Mockingbird is innocence or rather the loss of it and Harper uses a common American bird to symbolize innocence. The premise of the book is a black man’s struggle for justice and the society as seen through the eyes of an eight year old white girl called Scout.
The story takes place during the great depression in a small town called Maycomb in Alabama and is recalled by Scout who lives with her older brother Jem and widowed lawyer father Atticus. Life for them is a series of everyday childish adventure including shooting birds with air guns, a sport they enjoy but Atticus tells them to never shoot a mocking bird as it is does no harm but helps the farmers by eating insects on the crop. The kids are also fascinated and terrified of their reclusive neighbor called Radley whom no-one has ever seen for many years. Rumors of Radley being a mad man floats in the town , but Scout’s 2 elderly neighbors rubbish it saying he is an extremely shy and timid person who is scared of meeting people. Scout and Jem make schemes to get Radely or Boo as they call him to get out of the house but fail; however they do find little presents kept for them in the hollow of a tree, making them realize that Boo has noticed them..
In the meanwhile Atticus is appointed by the court to defend Tom Robinson, a 24 year old married black man accused of molesting a 19 year old white girl called Mayella Ewell, who is the daughter of the town drunkard Bob Ewell. This is at a time when racism was at its peak and the whole town is against Tom because he is black. However, Atticus, a principled man takes up the case and Scout and Jem face a lot of disapproval and taunts at school. During the trial as the story unfolds , Atticus establishes beyond doubt that Tom is innocent and that it was in fact Mayella a lonely and friendless young girl who tried to seduce Tom who in turn ran away , but was seen by her father who after beating her up accused Tom of the heinous crime to save face. But Justice is dethroned, when in spite of the evidence, the jury rules in favor of a drunk lying white man instead of an honest black man. Tom looses faith in the law and tries to escape from prison ad gets shot and killed in the process.
Interestingly, though the jury favored Bob the town knows that he is guilty and feeling humiliated Bob, vows revenge and attacks Scout and Jem with a kitchen knife as they return home from a Halloween play at school on a dark night. Jem’s arm is broken, but someone comes to their rescue and in the struggle Bob is stabbed. Their rescuer carries the unconscious Jem home and Scout realizes that their rescuer is in fact Boo Radely – their extremely shy neighbor. The sheriff is called in and even though he knows Boo stabbed Bob, he claims that Bob fell on his own knife to protect Boo. The novel ends with Scout sitting on her father’s lap as he reads to her in Jem’s room as she dozes off to sleep.
Fellow toastmasters - This is the story of how a mocking bird in the form of a black man was killed at one time and allowed to live at another time though the evidence of a sheriff.
As I conclude I’ll like to leave you with thought- Racism is not as obvious as it was in the Scout’s time and the law is unbiased today, but human nature is still the same. We still have mocking birds that live among us, birds that do not conform to the established norm, think differently and live differently - but birds that do no harm and the question you need to ask yourself at the end of the book is - Did I ever kill a Mockingbird?