I’m not sure how someone like me, someone who loves reading and even graduated from college with a lit minor, could have gotten this far in life without reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Similarly, I earned a bachelor’s in film production but have never seen Citizen Kane. But while the thought of viewing Kane feels a bit like homework to me, I was anxious to finally tackle Mockingbird.
I’m so glad I did. What an amazing story, what amazing story-telling.
I don’t know that I’m going to be able to write anything profound about Mockingbird that hasn’t already been written 100 times before. But I will share a few things I’ve been reflecting on:
- I wonder how much my enjoyment of Mockingbird is enhanced by my own identity as a white woman who, like Scout, was a precocious, book-loving tomboy growing up.
- The specific setting of Mockingbird—small Alabama town in the 1930’s—is central to the plot. Yet I’m struck by the universality of the main themes and structures: Coming of age. How racial, socioeconomic, and gender norms shape a society. Loss of innocence. How to define moral courage. Learning acceptance of those different from you.
- That being said, I would really love to hear African-Americans responses to Mockingbird. Does anyone know of essays or articles on Mockingbird by African-Americans? Because on one hand, Harper Lee’s perspective on the above issues were very progressive for a 1950’s white Southern woman. On the other hand, her perspective is very clearly that of a white Southern woman, written to a white audience. It would be fascinating to read the story from say, Calpurnia’s point of view, ala The Wind Done Gone.
- I found it enlightening that one of the factors which sealed Tom Robinson’s fate was his expression of pity for Mayella Ewell.
- My favorite quote from the book (which is also included in the movie, I believe): “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
Speaking of the movie, I’m gonna have to rent it now!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections on To Kill a Mockingbird. How old were you when you first read it? What kind of impact did it have on you? Do you think it’s deserving of the title, “Best Novel of the 20th Century?”* What’s your favorite scene or quote?
Also, please join us for February’s Book Club selection: The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling. I don’t think I’ll be able to read the whole series in a month, but I’m gonna see how far I can get!
*According to a 1999 poll of the readers of Library Journal. Mockingbird has received similar acclaim from a variety of sources.