March 7, 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird

I’ve been lost in a mire of freelance work of late. I love being employed, but it does leave one with very little free time. As I am happily unemployed again, you’ll start hearing a bit more from me.

So far, this is probably my favorite. I know that many people were shocked that I had escaped school without reading To Kill a Mockingbird, but it was just never on the agenda. I am glad that I’ve caught up now.

This is basically the story of how the narrator’s (Scout’s) older brother broke his elbow. Weaved into that basic idea is a story about growing up during the Depression, in the Deep South. Scout is a tom boy and her older brother, Jem, is her idol. They run around and cause trouble with their friend, Dill. They are seriously obsessed with the hermit on the corner (Boo Radley) and endow him with all manner of mystical qualities. Scout and Jem’s dad is a defense lawyer in town, and the real story is about the case he defends. A black man is accused of raping a white girl. Despite the fact that the circumstantial evidence is very sketchy, the family in question is of extremely dubious moral character, the black man in question is maimed, and all evidence points to the father at the least beating his daughter, the jury convicts the black man. The father feels that the defense humiliated him by showing the town what a horrible excuse for a human being he is and decides to go after Scout’s dad. Things get touch and go there, but the hermit on the corner saves the day and Scout learns the moral of not judging a book by its cover. Oh, and Jem break’s his elbow.

Other thoughts:
  • I had a certain amount of amusement reading this because in my mind over the years To Kill a Mockingbird had somehow become conflated with The Color Purple and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I was actually pretty surprised when the narrator turned out to be white. You have my full permission to make fun of me. Somehow I had it in my head that it was a story about blacks in the south. I knew there weren’t crazy people (wrong there too, sorta), but the two bird titles mingled in my brain somewhere.
  • Once I got myself straightened out, it was a very enjoyable read. I really like reading books that are narrated by children. You get quite a different take on things. The fact that it’s written by an adult adds to it because you get that extra layer of understanding; kind of like the adult jokes in a children’s cartoon.
  • On the other hand, despite the fact that it was narrated by a child, there was a no holds bar, no sugar coated truth in the story. This was especially true when it came to the trial. There wasn’t any glossing over hard, sad, or disgusting facts. That added quite a bit to the substantiality of the story. Maycomb became a real place you could step into.
  • The back of my book did not help my already confused notions. It said that Harper Lee considered the book a simple love story. Consequently, I expected a love story the whole time. Not really in evidence, unless you really stretch the idea of love story.
  • I also expected Jem to break his arm on every page. It was one of those books where it doesn’t all come together until the very end. I love seeing it come together, but sometimes it is frustrating getting there. This is why I’m glad I’ve already read One Hundred Years of Solitude (an amazing book, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense until the last page). To Kill a Mockingbird is not nearly so bad. It was a great read, as previously stated, but I really expected the elbow to break by page 50.

The next book on the list is the Bible. I can’t really sit down and tackle that one like a novel. You can expect to see a series of postings on it interspersed among my other readings. For those of you reading along at home, that makes the next novel (or in this case, series) His Dark Materials. You may be more familiar with it as the Golden Compass trilogy.

Also, to make it easier to keep track of everything, I’ve created a new page with just the list. You can get to it from the main page of the blog.

1 comment:

  1. What another excellent post! I need to go back and reread To Kill a Mockingbird. When I first read it, I was in 9th grade, and let's be honest, a 14-year-old just doesn't grasp the full scope of the themes in that book.


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