It's hard to argue with To Kill a Mockingbird 's message of standing up for what's right even when the costs are high. But not everyone agrees that the book holds the moral high ground. While the main reason it frequently appears on lists of banned books is its use of profanity, it's also been challenged for its one-dimensional representation of African-Americans as docile, simple folk who need whites to protect them. Some people see the novel as taking a powerful stand against racism. Others just see it as promoting a kinder, gentler form of racism.
David Baker: Well, it’s certainly it’s about prejudice, it’s about pride, it’s about prejudgment. But you know the thing that struck me most about it is the universality of traits that are found in all human beings are in this book. Particularly, the fact that it’s a book told through the eyes of a little girl as she becomes a woman. And I find that very beautiful…‘cause it’s almost biblical in the sense a child, a little child shall lead them. And I guess I’m also struck by the way that Harper Lee characterized the various players in the book. For instance, the fact that there is that duality that all human beings have that nobody’s essentially all bad or all good. And I thought that, more than anything else, she was able to capture that. And I thought about an ad that I happened to be seeing on TV the other night when I was, you know, going through the book again, and it’s the ad that Kobe Bryant does. And he talks about, “People hate me because I swagger, they hate me because I score too many points, they hate me because I’m a pro.” And then when he finishes all of that, he says very quietly, “It’s the same reason that some people love me.” And I thought about that when I thought about, you know, some of the characters here who are very, very bad, are very evil seemingly in intent. And yet then there’ll be somebody who happens that says there’s something redeemable about them.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ewell threatens Atticus and other people connected with the trial because he feels he was humiliated. He gets his revenge one night while Jem and Scout are walking home from the Halloween play at their school. He follows them home in the dark, then runs at them and attempts to kill them with a large kitchen knife. Jem breaks his arm, and Scout, who is wearing a confining ham shaped wire costume and cannot see what is going on, is helpless throughout the attack. The elusive Boo Radley stabs Mr. Ewell and saves the children. Finally, Scout has a chance to meet the shy and nervous Boo. At the end of this fateful night, the sheriff declares that Mr. Ewell fell on his own knife so Boo, the hero of the situation, won't have to be tried for murder. Scout walks Boo home and imagines how he has viewed the town and observed her, Jem and Dill over the years from inside his home. Boo goes inside, closes the door, and she never sees him again.