It is hard to describe this book for me.
To start with, To Kill A Mockingbird written by Harper Lee, is considered by most to be a classic and it deserves this status. The story first came to my consciousness when I saw the video tape of the movie version in a store. Reading the back of the case, the tingle of interest grew. Shortly after, I saw the movie on tv and it filled me. The book had to be mine, and it had to be mine now.
Flashforward 15 years and I finally bought the book. Yes, I move swiftly sometimes.
Flashforward two years and I finally read the book. I am decisive, I think.
The book is told in a flashback from the POV of Scout, a little girl growing up in a small town in the deep south during the depression. She lives with her older brother and her widowed father, and hangs out with her brother’s friend and her housekeeper. She knows total love for her father, Atticus, who is a principled lawyer doing what he can for his family, society, and justice.
As time passes, Scout becomes aware of a growing disquiet in the town. A trial is coming. Her father is the defense lawyer. Tensions are everywhere. The trial occurs. Truths are ignored. Scout learns about the human condition. And a child gets a broken arm.
All these elements are essential to the journey.
Scout is a child you want to hold, hug, talk and play with. She has a wondrous view of life and an intellect expanding beyond her years. Her father’s sense of helping and healing permeates into Scout’s being. She attempts, on her first day of school, to assist the teacher in understanding social structure of the class. Scout views her actions as simply being nice. The teacher does not. To complicate her existence, Scout can already read, thanks to Atticus teaching her. The teacher’s disapproval to this bothers her since she loves to read and it is something Scout can do with Atticus. Time spent with her father. Quality time decades before the term was invented. The honesty in the the scene is counterbalanced by Atticus’s solution. Tell the teacher a little white lie. Scout is happy and fine.
As the story progresses to the trial, Scout’s worldview grows and widens. Things we as adults know and understand, Scout must now grapple with. Prejudice exists as a way of life. But it is not Scout’s way of life. Violence is the natural way of solving a problem. To Scout, it is frightening.
The pain of the ending is multiple. The trial just hurts. People who know better, do not do better. The lessons, the words, the thoughts make no difference. This trail could happen today and the pain would be the same. In the book, it is a black man on trial, today it could be a homosexual. Hatred of the other no matter what the reason is a fundamental loathing of mine. Homosexuals are still targeted by rancid politicians and public figures who have no morals. I refuse to call them religious figures since there is nothing religious about them.
When the journey ends, the next pain starts. It is over. Scout is still out their, growing up, living her life, but we don’t see that. Scout. Atticus. Jem. Dill. Calpurnia. Boo. They are all fixed in time. World War Two has not occurred and the Civil Rights movement is far far away. But I want to see what happened to them all, every happy moment and inevitable heartbreak that followed. In my imagination, we know in this universe that Scout and Dill would get married after she became a lawyer. Her child would be called Atticus. Life would be better with them around. I want to live in a world with them in it.
I am still kicking myself that I took so long to read what is now one of my top five books. The love of the characters against the evil of the world permeates every word, every thought, every action. Everything.
Everyone should read this book. We would all better for it.
Scout: “Atticus, he was real nice….”
Atticus: “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
Thank you Harper Lee. You made me cry.
P.S. To Kill A Mockingbird was published in 1960 and is 281 pages in paperback. Just read it.
P.P.S. The movie, called To Kill A Mockingbird, was released in 1962 and stars Gregory Peck. He is amazing. Rent the dvd or stream it online today.
P.P.P.S. To Kill A Mockingbird cover is copyright 2011 by Warner Books.
P.P.P.P.S. Harper Lee passed away at age 89, on Friday February 19 2016. Thank you Harper Lee for all your excellent writings.