To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize the year after it was published.
To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize the year after it was published. PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

Harper Lee's greatest novel still challenges our world

HARPER LEE, the famously reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, died last Friday just shy of her 90th birthday.

If you have not read her most renowned piece of writing, a novel about racial injustice in a small Alabama town in the 1930s, take some time to do so.

The book, published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize the following year and has sold more than 40 million copies around the world.

The story, so poignant and relevant against the backdrop of America's civil rights movement still strikes a chord today and is sadly an example of the more things change, the more they stay the same.

To Kill a Mockingbird paints a colourful picture of small-town life and tells the story of lawyer Atticus Finch who stands firm against racism and mob-like mentality in the most trying of circumstances.

The story is related by six-year-old Scout, the young daughter of Atticus, and her beautiful innocence makes the case against discrimination all the more stark.

Atticus' determination to ensure a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl, will get the best defence possible despite the fact the guilty verdict in a racist America is a foregone conclusion, is not only an act to be applauded but one of great bravery.

Atticus is no hero but he is a man of conscience, of innate goodness, who implores his children and the community to see people as just that, people. He is the voice of the morals we should hold dear and there is much to be learnt from his quiet strength and honourable choices. Compassionate and deeply moving, this book examines the essence of human behaviour with the characters weaving a web of innocence and experience, cruelty and love, hatred, humour and extreme sadness.

It forces the reader to question their conscience, to challenge stereotypes and to evaluate man's horrible cruelty to his fellow man.

If you are a human being with emotions - black or white, old or young, male or female - you will be touched by this unforgettable book.

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