Saturday, 18 July 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird

It's never an insult to be called what someone thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you.

Unlike half the country, I was not forced to read To Kill a Mockingbird at school and with all the fanfare and kerfuffle going on around the publication of Go Set a Watchman, I thought I’d finally get round to reading it. And I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting it to me more focused on the court case rather than the life of a small, southern town through the eyes of a child. It is a charming book and not as dark as all the critical analysis would make it out to be.

My cluelessness regarding the book extended to the existence of Boo Radley. Clearly that’s where one hit wonder The Boo Radleys got their name from and consequentially I ended up with Wake Up Boo stuck in my head for half the book. The whole spooky house where the recluse lives thing has become a bit of a cliché over the years but things become clichés for a reason. I felt the lesson of prejudice Scout learns regarding Boo makes much more of an impression on her than her father’s court case.


Of course the central themes are injustice and racism, much explored and discussed in numerous places already. It’s hard to fathom such a world existed not all that long ago. I can imagine it having a greater impact when it was first published, but taking a more modern viewpoint, it doesn’t quite challenge enough. Atticus is a decent man doing his job, but everyone else just turns a blind eye to racism and it isn’t challenged. I guess it was a sign of the times…

I read this piece in The Guardian shortly after finishing Mockingbird and found myself nodding. I don’t think Atticus was ever perfect in the first place, the story is told through the rose tinted spectacles of youth after all. He is infuriatingly nice and respectful to everyone, even racist old drug addicts. It’s an admirable quality in a father to teach his children to respect everyone equally, but then some people don’t deserve that respect. I wanted to side with Scout and her desire to fight anyone who disparaged her father’s good nature.

I was also really saddened by Mayella, she is such a brief character but the poor girl. She’s “white trash” and a liar so we’re not meant to care in the confines of the story. Yet she was so lonely and a victim of abuse, not to mention the guilt she must have been burdened with. I would have liked to have known what happened to her.

I’m not particularly interested in reading Go Set a Watchman, but I can understand it’s a different perspective on a man who we only know through his loving daughter’s eyes. I’m more put off by the fact it was a book Harper apparently didn’t want published, that many people have said isn’t as polished and also that it’s lacking Scout’s innocent charm. Now if it were about Boo Radley’s life…

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Book Source: Purchased

2 comments:

  1. I thought Scout still had her charm in GSAW - it was just more of a twenty-something feistiness rather than the all-out naivety of a small child. There were some lengthy flashbacks to her childhood which had the same feel as TKAM too, which I loved. I'd definitely have read a book about Boo Radley though, he was just amazing. Have you seen the film yet? The scene where Scout meets him for the first time has the most beautiful score, I cry every time! :)

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    1. I thought I had seen the film but now I wonder if I just saw a bit of it as the story didn't seem all that familiar.

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