Harper Lee’s 1960 paean to the South is one of the most beloved American novels ever written. Some of that is due to the 1962 classic film adapted from it, which stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a small-town lawyer who also happens to be the most upstanding and sympathetic father ever. But much of the respect accorded the novel (the author’s only book) has to do with its memorable main characters, brother and sister duo Jem and Scout. With its competing subplots about a black man on trial for allegedly raping a white woman and the children’s attempts to learn about their reclusive neighbor Boo Radley, the novel is perfectly structured to provide half a dozen lessons about history and acceptance and injustice and compassion. No wonder it’s the staple of all middle-school staples. Happy 50th, Mockingbird!
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