This is my first time reading To Kill A Mockingbird. I know, I know how did this happen? I blame my high school teachers, isn't this when most people are first introduced to this book? Anyways, I'm not truly sure how I missed reading this growing up, but I'm really happy it was chosen for the Classic read-a-long this month. Like so many others, I'm now left waiting for the sequel, Go Set a Watchman.
It is really easy to see why To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic. It's the kind of book that I know I will read again, if only to take a step back in time to this fictional town and time period. I think it's also the kind of book that resonates with people on a very personal level. I just adored the small town feel of the story. The kind where kids are playing within yelling distance, everyone knows everyone else, well and everyone's business too. The kind of place where neighbors keep and eye on each other, and share gossip across the fence. You can walk to school and down to the neighborhood grocery store without a care in the world. Where as a kid, you feel safe at home with your parents and you've got roots. Roots and families that have a history in the town. Maycomb is a very idealistic town at first, but soon neighbors and the main characters are forced to look at each other in a new light. And what they find brings out both the good and bad in them.
One of the things that instantly struck me was how young these characters actually were. I mean Scout is six and Jem is ten at the beginning of the story. They just seemed so advanced for their age but also so innocent. Yet, it felt necessary having Scout's point of view and her reflections on events in later years. It allowed for a childlike innocence to the story, given the serious themes of social injustice, prejudice, rape and racism. Scout was the perfect narrator, helping us to see the world she lived in and the characters around her beliefs and prejudices. Even having to face some of her own, when her brother tells her she is “behaving more and more like a girl” and then her Aunt wanting her to be more like a Southern lady. How confusing this must have been.
There were many religious themes in To Kill a Mockingbird, with Miss Maudie's conflict with the Baptists over her flower garden, how Atticus was choosing to bring up his children with his same values, even during the ladies tea time and bible study. But, they seemed to fit into the time period, setting and theme's that Lee was trying to portray. Nothing ever really came off as heavy handed, it just seemed to fit.
At the same time, Lee seamlessly blends in a coming-of-age story where Scout and Jem are learning about the world around them, but also learning about who their father is and what he stands for. It's sad how they loose some of their childhood innocence as the events of Tom Robinson's trial unfolds.
Atticus was my favorite character throughout the story, well and Scout, she is just so adorable. But, Atticus is a wonderful father with his calm demeanor and humble honest approach.
‘When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em.’
I could quote him for days. He just epitomizes what is good, moral and just, and represents an honorable man with a high standard of integrity. He is such a great role model to his two children and the wisdom he passes on about “never really understanding a person until you consider things from his point of view or until climbing into his skin and walking around.” are just wonderful life lessons. Atticus doesn't ever have it easy either. He wants to do what he feels is morally correct and his duty, by defending Tom Robinson. It's interesting that there are other people in town who agree with him, but it's like they make him their spokesperson. Atticus does what he feels he should do, otherwise he “couldn't hold his head up in town.” His moral compass is very strong and Lee has developed this wonderful character for others to look up to.
‘The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.’
There were a few things about Atticus parenting style that I never fully understood though. Why did he allow the children to call him by his first name, rather than father? Was it their way of showing him respect? I keep wondering about this throughout my reading. And why did Atticus allow his brother (Uncle Jack) to give Scout a licking after she used some foul language? But, most of all I loved the compassion that he showed to Mrs. Dubose, even though they had very differing views.
Overall, To Kill a Mockingbird was a wonderful story and I really can't say much more than that.
Favorite line: "It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and if you've ever had a Scuppernong please let me know how they taste. I'm kinda curious now.