To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Part One

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To Kill A Mockingbird is the kind of book that throws you back to a time and a place where things were different and yet where certain essential ways of thinking still seem accurate today. 

Perhaps that’s why you can still read Harper Lee’s novel today (56 years after it was published) and find some truth in it, something you can relate to.

The novel is full of words of wisdom from Atticus Finch, such as:

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-“.
“Sir?”

“-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Page 30)

And it’ll make you think back to your own childhood as it offers fond memories from growing up that most can relate to.

For example, do you remember waiting anxiously for summertime when you were a kid? Waiting for that special day when school would be out for the summer and you’d have absolutely nothing to do for weeks, no responsibilities and you could sleep in, watch TV all morning, eat breakfast in front of the TV, roam around, skip meals because you’d be out playing (and your parents couldn’t get a hold of you because there were no cell phones and no internet and it was all right because that was the way things were and it was a safer world somehow), come home and go to bed late…and then wake up and do it all again.

“Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.” (Page 34)

But eventually you must grow up, no matter how hard it seems. Things will naturally change, as life progresses and as the seasons do.

The change comes in chapter 8 when the fire breaks out that burns down Mis Maudie’s house.

When Christmas time rolls around  in chapter 9, and Atticus takes a case defending Tom Robinson (the negro), the family is faced with the racial issues and divide of the times and this small, southern US town.

“If you shouldn’t be defending him, then why are you doin’ it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town (…), I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

(…) “Atticus, are we going to win it?”

“No, honey.”

“Then why–”

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” Atticus said. (Page 75-76)

In chapter 10, the mad dog walks into the neighborhood like an omen of bad things to come, which reaches a climax at the end of part one (in chapter 11) when Jem has a moment to temporary insanity and destroys Mrs Dubose’s garden (for which he is punished). The circle of change is momentarily completed with the death of Mrs. Dubose at the end of the chapter:

“You know, she was a great lady.”

(…) “She was. She had her own views about things (…). I wanted you to see something about her — 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. Mrs. Dubose won (…). According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.” (Page 112)

To be continued…

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