'First of all,' he said, 'if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-'
'-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'"
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (page33)
From the vantage point of history we can examine themes of racism and prejudice, morality, courage and bravery in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. These are the obvious themes, but I have to say that the lessons that I took from the novel on this reading are slightly different than they were 20 years ago. Today I found myself more interested in the concept of slowing down and gaining an understanding of the human experience through individuals.
Are we losing our ability to "get along with all kinds of folks" by forgetting Atticus' simple trick?
How about small town life? I grew up in a small town and I can always tell on meeting someone if they have a similar background. It's something about the way they communicate, I find that people who moved around or grew up in cities are slightly more guarded and quicker to establish certain criteria. Do you think a small town setting breeds a "wait and see" attitude in a person? People present themselves one way but there is always another side, a family secret, something wayward and imperfect in everyone's story. In small towns we know all of these things... about everyone!
Do you think Harper Lee used the small town setting to this effect?
Who is in love with Atticus? (raises hand) Why is he so loveable? Is it that he is the one real grown-up in the novel, the character who understands fully that there is right and wrong in everyone? He is the conscience of the novel but he is also masculine and brave to the core.
Atticus was a gentleman, through and through.
"...pass the damn ham, please..."
She's scrappy, she cusses, she brawls with the boys and she wants to understand concepts of justice and place in the world. She adores her father but her brother too, she's curious and she's not self-conscious.
She's not lost the talents we are born with, to see the world with a clear eye, to be unafraid and to question.
Jem might be the boy but Scout is the little Atticus!
The Courthouse Ring: Atticus Finch and the limits of Southern Liberalism (Malcolm Gladwell)
This is the sort of novel that is studied to death and flaws and faults can be found throughout... but it is a novel, and in the end it's the feeling that we take away from it and the bigger themes that are opened up to further contemplation that make a re-read so compelling.
To Kill a Mockingbird: Too Simple a Moral Tale? (Sam Jordison)
I would say that it is a simple moral tale but no less effective for its simplicity.
Tell me what you brought out of the novel this time. Who is your favourite character? Is Atticus' treatment of Boo at the novel's ending morally ambiguous?
Did you find the dialogue between Scout, Jem and Dill hilarious? Do they seem like children who are written older than their years?
Have you watched the movie recently? How do you think the book and the movie are holding up over time?
Any and all thoughts are welcome.