Thursday, November 13, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I just reread To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for my Lakeshore Moms' bookclub. It is I think my fourth time reading it, but definitely not my last. This is a novel that can be enjoyed again and again and will always bring new meanings and messages to the reader.

To Kill a Mockingbird is the coming of age story of tomboy Scout Finch and her brother Jem . They live in Maycomb Alabama with their widowed lawyer father Atticus and housekeeper Calpernia. The novel spans several years with Scout aging from six to nine. Scout and Jem befriend a new boy named Dill that comes to visit his aunt during the summer. Together they fantasize about neighbor "Boo" Radley that hasn't been seen outside his house in years. The novel beautifully portrays small town Southern life in the 1930's. Scout has almost an idyllic childhood until she is forced to grow up when her father defends African American Tim Robinson against the false allegations of rape by a white woman, Mayella Ewell. I will say no more for those who have not read the novel.

I think this is a superb piece of American Literature for several reasons. First of all, it is one of the best coming of age stories that I have ever read. Secondly, it is a great tale about the inequality of race in the American South. I am glad that the nation I live in today has gone from this novel with such racial inequalities to a nation where we have the first African American President. Thirdly, Atticus Finch is one of the best literary heros ever. He is a good man who sticks to his principals and stands for honesty and integrety of individuals. I wish I lived in a world where there were more men and women like Atticus Finch. Lastly, the storytelling and description in this book are beautiful. It is truly a masterpiece.

The only thing I didn't like about the book is the racial epithats used throughout. It was a sign of the times and historically accurate, but it's a bit jarring for modern sensibilities.

I had this book with me at the orthodontist on Monday and heard from several people that they liked the book and hadn't read it since high school. I first read it in high school myself, but I was never made to read it for a class. Truthfully, when I look back on what books we did read in high school (and college), I find that 99% of the books I read for classes were written by men. Why is that? Why are important women writers left off the syllabuses? I still dream of someday throwing down my engineering degree and becoming an English professor of literature that forces everyone to read women authors:-)

If you have never read this classic, I HIGHLY recommend it.

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