There are certain books that, over time, become a part of our collective consciousness. References and illusions are found in everyday conversation and no one thinks twice.
Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” is one such book. I’ve heard Atticus Finch, Boo Radley, Jem and Scout mentioned in countless other books, TV shows, and movies over the years; but embarrassingly, I had never read it. My New Year’s Resolution this year then was to finally read this modern classic, (I normally like my classics set in 18th century Britain so 1960 seems like yesterday), and unusually I kept this resolution, don’t ask me about my others though.
Despite being written in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird is set in 1936 in the American south. This was a time and place filled with great hardship, intense racial tension and deep tradition.
Our central family then, is already at a disadvantage, Atticus is a widower, raising two children on his own. The story unfolds slowly and comfortably, the two young children, Jem and Scout, get into various adventures, as children tend to do, many of them involving Boo Radley, the reclusive neighbor who is never seen. Jem, Scout, and their friend Dill devise many schemes in which to get Boo to surface.
Meanwhile, Atticus, a lawyer, becomes involved in an unusual case – a black man is accused of raping a white woman, despite his innocence and Atticus’ work on his behalf, tensions begin to run high throughout the town, spilling into the lives of his young children.
Many of the illusions to Atticus Finch in today’s pop culture are to his being an exceptional father, the reputation is well deserved. As he struggles to do the right thing in a terrible situation, he also struggles to raise his children to be well educated, kind, and independent, all while under incredible scrutiny from his extended family, and many members of his community.
The book deals with many familiar themes, racism, loss of innocence, and justice but despite the familiarity nothing in Lee’s narrative feels stale. Perhaps it is Scout’s young voice guiding us that gives Mockingbird its fresh feeling; seeing the world through a ten year old child certainly gives us a different perspective. I feel so in love with the Finch family that next on my reading list is the long awaited sequel. I’ll let you know if it lives up.
Come check it out at Lewisporte Memorial Public Library our hours are:
Monday 1- 5 p.m.
Tuesday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1:30 – 5 p.m.
Wednesday 1:30 – 5 p.m. and 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1:30 – 5 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1:30 – 5 p.m.