I love Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I love it because it's a story of courage and commitment to doing what's right.
Attorney Atticus Finch did a brave but dangerous thing. He defended Tom Robinson, a black man, accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell.
Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and by about 1963, it was challenged all across the country for its "inappropriateness" in classrooms and libraries.
Several reasons were given. Racial slurs, profanity, and open discussion of rape among them. Some simply called it a "filthy, trashy, novel".
The most shocking complaints (to me, anyway!) were from people who were furious at the very idea that Mayella might be attracted to Tom.
It remains a frequently challenged book, but for different reasons. Since the 1970s it's mostly the use of the n-word that's objectionable.
The story is told by Scout, the daughter of Atticus Finch. But she could not have known the turmoil her father must surely have gone through to arrive at the decision to accept Tom's case.
Atticus knew that whatever happened, things would not turn out well for Tom. Yet, he knew that defending him was the right thing to do. Tom insisted he was innocent, and Atticus believed him.
On the other hand, he knew he would be placing himself and his family in great danger....
I read this book years ago, probably not long after its first publication. Then re-read it a couple of years or so ago when I attended a book study on it. I saw the play shortly after.
I admire Atticus Finch's tremendous courage in doing what he did. It could have cost him his life. In those days, in the real world, it often did.
Another thing I love about this book is what Boo Radley shows us. Scout and her brother Jem, along with their friend, Dill, spend much of their time plotting ways to find out more about this reclusive neighbor.
They are afraid of him, but on occasion, curiosity overrules the fear and they begin to devise ways to coax him out in the open.
At the end of the story, Boo comes to the defense of the children when they are in danger. They learn that things are not always as they seem. Sometimes what looks "scary" or "weird" turns out not to be at all.
And what I was reminded of throughout the story is that sometimes what looks "proper" or "respectable", turns out to be--well, maybe not so much.