If I had to make a list of my favorite things this book would be very, very high:
There are far too many reasons why to take the time to list right now. However, I have spent the past month or two teaching reading and studying this with my sophomores. I had them fill out a little slip for me today, letting me know if they would recommend it for another group of sophomores. All but two of my students said they absolutely would.
Many commented on the timeless themes and lessons in the book, saying that if someone reads it with an "open heart they definitely will learn something." Many talked about how the character of Mrs. Dubose taught the kids a lesson on courage [Atticus says to the kids, "I wanted you to see something about her--I wanted you to see what real courage is... It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do... She died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."], or how Atticus taught the kids to stand up for what is right, no matter what.
Many mentioned Atticus' advice to "learn a simple trick...you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Some loved the theme of justice, and fully understood the symbolism in the sin of killing a mockingbird, or they connected to Atticus' closing arguments saying that "all men are created equal in a court of law."
Others liked the simplicity and innocence of Scout realizing that Boo was "real nice", and that "most people are once you get to know them."
A few of my favorite things about the book are these lessons/themes as well, but I also appreciate the beautiful way in which Harper Lee wrote the book. I have never felt like my kids really understood foreshadowing, but I now know that all of my sophomores understand. There is no way to read this book and not get it, because Lee weaves it into the plot so effortlessly.
However, anyone who has read the book or watched the film know what the true beauty in this book is: the characters.
You cannot help but fall in love with Jean Louise "Scout", and Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch. Seeing the world of good and evil through their eyes, the reader falls back into his or her own childhood and learns along with them. The tomboy Scout, in her overalls and bare feet, narrates the story and over the course of the two years in which it takes place, grows up and learns, as the book jacket suggests, of the human dignity that unites us all.
But there is also their dad, the lawyer, Atticus Finch. He is "same in his house as he is on the public streets," and in my humble opinion is one of the best literary characters every created. I wish he were real. I wish I could sit and talk with him. Gregory Peck won an academy award for his portrayal of him in the movie, and although he did do a phenomenal job I think it would have been hard for anyone to play that role and NOT win an academy award because Lee did such an unbelievable job of developing his character. One of my favorite moments in the book is when he is leaving the courtroom, and all of the blacks in the balcony stand up and one of them says to Scout, "Miss Jean Louise, stand up; your father is passing." I wish we had more people like Atticus Finch to stand up for these days.
And these are just three of the characters. I didn't even mention Miss Maudie, or the kids plucky sidekick, Charles Baker Harris [Dill], or Dolphus Raymond, or Calpurnia, or Heck Tate...the list goes on and on.
It is truly a work of art. Something that I truly think everyone should read at some point in their life. My students were a bit skeptical when we started the unit, thinking that I was slightly obsessed/crazy, and if I liked it so much that they couldn't possibly enjoy it. But I'm thankful they were wrong. I'm thankful they have got to walk in the shoes of the Finches and learned about the human dignity that unites us all too!
*Harper Lee never wrote another book. If I were her, I don't think I would have either! :)