The book revolves around one family, Atticus Finch and his two children, Jean Louise, the narrator of the story, and James Finch, her elder brother. Their mother has already died and a maid Calpurnia takes care of them. They live in a town, Maycomb County, where everybody reveres Atticus because of his talents, magnanimity, modesty and his success as an honest reputed lawyer. He brings up his children with utmost care, inculcating self discipline and an attitude of “respect for all” in spite of the general atmosphere of racial discrimination. He makes them understand the value of human dignity.
The book mainly talks about two things-1) How the children are brought up and prevented from abusing or making fun of someone, even when the other person did wrong to them. His father explains them the reason for their behavior and helps them develop empathy for that person, which is really appreciable. He also helps them understand that power should only be used for other’s benefit and not to dominate someone. He creates an atmosphere of openness, helps them express all their doubts and never hits them no matter what, but for sure creates a fear among them. This is an ideal situation which is created with sophistication.
2) The case of racial discrimination which actually shows the bitterness among the Whites for Blacks. There is shown a case where a white man, Mr. Bob Ewell accuses a Negro Mr. Tom Robinson of raping his daughter. Mr. Atticus defends the Negro, and gets a lot humiliation from his peers for saving a Negro. But he stood by the cause he took up with sheer self confidence as he knew he was doing something right. Even after giving the strong evidences in favor his client, the jury was bound by their discriminatory policy to convict Tom Robinson. This actually shook the children. But they were proud of their father. But it highlighted before them the true picture of the society.
Hence the book mainly deals with the upbringing of the children, their evolving thought processes and the conditioning of their mind to respect the individual dignity irrespective of their race or financial condition. That is the underlying message of the story.
The book derives its name from one of the incidents in the story where Atticus tells his children not to kill a mocking bird as it is harmless and sings for us. It depicts the message of the book because the book deals with protecting the powerless and using the power appropriately in the right context. The book has a lot to do with human behavior and is quite interesting to read.