When I was a really little girl and thought I wanted to be a lawyer (I have since learned that I’d much rather put my verbal skills to good use in the English department, with, of course, side trips to BookBlogLand), my dad sat me down with this movie and told me it would be “all the inspiration I need”. He was right, of course, in a number of ways.
The story of Scout, her brother Jim, their father Atticus, their maid Calpernia, and the local weird-kid neighbor-boy Boo Radley is an adult tale of race, trust, truth, bravery, and politics, all hiding in the viewpoint of Scout, our resident young narrator. The movie, starring the impeccably attractive Gregory Peck, was and is fantastic. But the book is so, so much better than that. I’ve read multiple reviews of this book in my blogroll, and it seems to be of the “love-it-or-hate-it” variety of stories. Let me plant my flag now and firmly in the “I LOVE THIS BOOK” camp.
This book, much like The Color Purple was and is ostensibly challenged because of it’s discussion of a sexual crime (the rape of a young white woman in the town by a local African American handyman) as well as it’s language where race is concerned – again, I don’t really think that’s a good enough read for banning a book, especially when context is taken in to consideration. It’s a very similar reason (in fact, the exact same reason) there was almost an edition of Huckleberry Finn put in to publication where every instance of the word “nigger” was replaced with the word “slave”, which does a disservice to every single reader who gets their hand on a copy of that particular volume. It is important, I believe (as does most of the English class where we had this debate last year) that these books not be sanitized – not be white-washed – because it robs readers of a sense of the history, location, and context that these books (To Kill a Mockingbird included) provide us with. And, if we are to learn from history, we must keep history as it was.
Moving on from that bit of a rant-y, ramble-y point, lets move in to a bit of the review. I love this book first and foremost because of Atticus Finch, Scout’s father and the lawyer who defends the accused African American racist in court against his white female accuser. Why do I love him oh so, so much? Consider the following:
“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.”
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
Some readers may consider it prostletyzing, or pedantic, or sacchrine. I think that Atticus’s advice is stuff that we all need to hear more often, and that are important foundations to being good people. I also love that, when she’s told these things by Atticus, Scout actually takes them in to her, learns them (or tries her hardest to). It’s awesome to see a father-only household where the family is solid and respectful, rather than broken.
The second thing I love about To Kill a Mockingbird is the importance it places on acceptance – and on things not being exactly what they seem. Scout and Jim must first learn who Boo Radley is, and then they must learn that really they knew nothing about him. They were frightened by the rumors they heard and the things their minds had formed, but all of these turned out to be false pretenses. In fact, at the end of the novel, Boo ends up saving the day and proving to everybody that just because somebody may be the “weird” kid, doesn’t mean they can’t also be the hero. In fact, most frequently they often are.
Unlike The Color Purple, which I do think takes a bit more of a mature reader, I would be getting this book in to every hand I could, if I had unlimited bookish people I knew and an infinite amount of money to spend on copies of To Kill a Mockingbird. I think that it’s a story that every age should know. If you haven’t read it, please do. You’ll be doing your inner you a huge favor.
We’re down to our last two days of Banned Books Week! Can you believe it?! I’ve been loving reveling in all of the banned bookishness, but I also can’t wait to review some of the fantastic other books I’ve been reading in the meantime! Whatever you’re reading – hope it’s making for happy reading!