Wednesday, April 27, 2011

book review past due: to kill a mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee

"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel; a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice; but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

Star Rating:

I think every child in the American school system has read this book.  English teachers love it for its metaphors, and even the roughest students tolerate it for its charm.  I last read this book in my tenth grade English Honors class, sitting at a table with two friends.  Our teacher encouraged  us to draw pictures of the things that stood out to us, and in that way, the book was made more accesible to us.  I vividly remember my friends and I doodling Scout in her ham suit, and Dill with his duck-fluff hair (we were horrified that this failed to come through in the movie version).

What is there to say about To Kill a Mockingbird that hasn't been said before?  Being a classic, it has been torn about by people whose opinions feel so much more valid than mine.  It's historical importance has been touched upon time and again as Atticus' position as the lawyer of a "colored man" puts him in the position of an ethical dilemma, one in which he makes all the right decisions imaginable.  In fact, Atticus himself has been revered through time as one of the greatest literary characters in history.

What caught my attention in the reading of the book, though, was not the character of Atticus - it was the character of Boo Radley.  Boo was Scout's adventure, a mystery, an urban legend in his own way.  Perhaps his mysterious demeanor is what makes him so attractive to the inquisitive reader.  Certainly everybody has their own opinions about Boo, whereas in the case of the trial, the story in black-and-white.

I think that everyone has their own story about To Kill a Mockingbird.  Even in the technology era, the story has been embedded into our society.  There are too many important themes, memorable characters, and unraveled mysteries in the story for us to ever let it be forgotten.

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