Harper Lee is a well-known modern American writer, a lawyer by profession. She was born in the State of Alabama. In 1960 she received the Pulitzer Prize for her novel "To Kill a Mockingbird", wich was translated into twelve languages soon after it appeared. The novel deals with the family of a barrister, Atticus Finch. His wife had died and he, together with his cook, an old Negro woman, Calpurnia, drings up his son Jem and daughter Jean Louise, whose nickname is Scout. The novel contains autobiographic features, but it is a sociological and psychological novel.
The story of the Finches is told by the eight-year-old girl Jean. The action is laid in the town of Maycomb in the South. The time is the thirties. Jean is a very observant girl: "Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old when. I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was notter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."
Atticus Finch "went to Montgomery to read law, and his younger brother went to Boston to study medicine. Their sister Alexandra was the Finch who remained at the Landing...". When Finch was admitted to the bar, he returned to Maycomb and began practice there. "During his first five years in Maycomb, Atticus practiced economy more than anything; for several years thereafter he invested his earnings in his brother's education. John Hall Finch was ten years younger than my father, and chose to study medicine at a time when cotton was not worth growing; but after getting Uncle Jack started, Atticus derived a reasonable income from the law. He likedMaycomb, he was Maycomb County born and bred; he knew his people, they knew him". Finch is nearle fifty, he wears glasses. "He was nearly blind in his eye, and said left eyes were the tribal curse of the Finches." In Scout's opinion her father didn't do anything. "He worked in an office, not in a drugstore. Atticus did not drive a dump-truck for the county, he was not the sheriff, he did not farm, work in a garage, or do anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone... He did not do the things our schoolmates' fathers did: he never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish or drink or smoke, sat in the living-room and read."
When Atticus Finch gave his children air-rifles, he told them it vas a sin to kill a mockingbird. Their neighbour, Miss Maudie, explained: "Your father's right," she said."Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corn cribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
Mr. Finch's kindness was not understood by people: even his own children thought him a coward because he didn't like hunting. When he was a young man, he used to be the best shot of the town. He had a talent for hitting atarget at one shot, that's why he won the nickname of One-Shot-Finch. But he never boasted about his success. Only when Atticus had to kill a mad dog the children learned that their father was One-Shot-Finch. When necessary he could use a weapon, but in general he believed it was wrong to shoot Jiving things. Miss Maudie explains Atticus's attitude in the following way: "I guess he decided he wouldn't shoot till he had to, and he had to today."
Atticus Finch his daughter he wanted to defend an innocent worker, Tom Robinson. "This case, Tom Robinson's case, is something that goes to the essence of a man's conscience - Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help that man.
"'Atticus, you must be wrong...'
"'Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong…'
"'They are certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions,' said Atticus, 'but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.'"
Nothing could change Finch's decision. He used all his skill when defending Tom Robinson in court, although he knew that he would 1ose. He told his son Jem: "In our courts, when it's a white man's word against a black man's, the white man always wins. They're ugly, but those are the facts of life... As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash."
Atticus set a good example for his children. He is very modest. He admits: "Sometimes I think I'm a total failure as a parent, but I'm all they've got. Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and l've tried to live so that I can look squarely back at him." He is a tender father and a clever teacher. "First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. " 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." He takes every opportunity to teach his children good. He told Jem: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. 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. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden1 to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."
Atticus Finch taught his children to be strong and clever, to overcome hard times bravely, to be just and kind, to distinguish the good from the bad.
The whole novel is the story of Harper Lee's childhood and her brother's. We enjoy their amusing adventures and games. Readers of the novel admire the artistic taste and talent of Harper Lee, and Knowledge of child psychology.