Is To Kill a Mockingbird Problematic? – Text Review Assignment – Benjamin Eicholtz

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most recognizable books in American Literature. It was written in 1960 by Harper Lee, and follows the story of a young girl named Scout, whose father is a Lawyer in a very conservative Alabama town. While the story of To Kill a Mockingbird mostly followed Scout and her brother Jem, the main takeaway from the story comes from her father’s actions. Her father’s name was Atticus, and he decided to become the lawyer for a black man named Tom Robinson being accused of raping a white girl. Atticus and his children face an enormous amount of backlash for defending a black man, and their lives are completely consumed by the case as it continues. Even though Atticus clearly proved that Tom had not raped the white woman, the jury would convict him anyways. Later Tom would attempt jail and be shot, while Scout and her brother are harassed even after for their father defending Tom. There was also a movie based off of the book made shortly after in 1962, which features a very famous image of Atticus defending Tom during the trial.

The big issue that had been raised with this book and movie in recent history have been its racist undertones. A lot of people nowadays group this book into something called the ‘white savior complex’, which is where a white person in a position of power helps a minority that is not, and is seen as noble in whatever piece of literature or cinema they take place in. Not only this, but To Kill a Mockingbird contains some language that I won’t repeat here, that would not be okay in any sense with today’s standards. I don’t think I, nor most people that read the book or watch the movie, have any problem with what happens with how it is perceived today. People have a problem with Atticus being made out to be a hero, and feeding that white savior complex I talked about earlier. However, this book predates a large majority of the Civil Rights Movement, so a white person sticking up for a black man was something very important for people to see in society during that time. In terms of the book or novel itself, I think it should be available to purchase but I don’t think it should be taught in nearly every high school English class like it is currently. The white person of a story being made a hero while a black person is put down in society could inadvertently just perpetuate that ideal in the eyes of so many impressionable young adults, so yes I would say To Kill a Mockingbird is somewhat problematic.

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