By Heather A.
5 out of 5 stars ★★★★★
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
To Kill A Mockingbird is in the American literary canon as the Great American Novel. Based on my “re-read” I would agree. Like many that found out there was a sequel to Mockingbird, I wanted to re-read the text because I had forgot all the details from my high school reading.
Scout is my favorite character. I love that she is oblivious to social cues and her innocence saves her and her family twice. She smart. And her guidance comes from a man with a terrific moral center, through his actions he teaches his children right and wrong. Sometimes at his personal expense.
Scout is amazing in her curiosity, Jem is a loyal friend, and Atticus is the silent hero. It doesn’t take much reading to see why these characters and this book are considered classic. I kept finding myself comparing the events in 1930 Alabama with today’s racially divided social problems. It was awfully familiar to read about a black man being unjustly shot multiple times.
One of the greatest lessons we learn from Mockingbird is how we treat “the other”. In the case of Boo Radley we know that he is nice, but afraid. And his otherness is exacerbated by his isolation. When Scout realizes who he is and what he did to save her and Jem, she realizes his otherness is nothing like she thought.
Similarly when Calpurina invited Jem and Scout to church, she showed them another Other. A life experience that was important for them to understand in the time they lived. And the otherness didn’t seem so foreign when they were invited to Cal’s home. Further, when the trial began Dill, Jem, and Scout sat with Reverend Sykes and the other African Americans from town. Creating a sharp contrast to the “other” of the townsfolk.
I think this is one of my favorite books now that it’s fresh in my memory. As always perspective makes all the difference in understanding works like Mockingbird.
I have a copy of the sequel Go Set A Watchman that I will review next week. Hesitant after reading some reviews, but will try to do it justice. See my initial reaction to the first chapter here.