To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I don’t want to be exaggerated. But to me, this is one of the best books I have ever read.

When Charlie dropped the book to his bookshelf in the movie of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I peeked and found To Kill a Mockingbird among his books. I guessed To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the “must read” of American teenagers? I have made a mental note to read it sometime since then.

And one day, I found it lay in the shelf of our community library. I thought, maybe it is time to read it?

Once I started reading it, I can’t stop. I was fascinated by the story, a little bit Gothic, pretty funny and very inspiring. Most of the readers would focus on the main part of the story–Atticus defending Tom Robinson at trail. But I enjoy the whole book profoundly.

The story was narrated by Scout, a rather boyish girl of 6 years old. The tone of the language is humorous, bouncy and sometimes childish not without wit. Chapter 1-9 were focus on her life between home and school, her adventure of Radley House with her brother Jem and friend Dill.

Apart from their playful talks and games, there were couple of significant events:

1, Miss Caroline, a young teacher, was endeavor to apply new method of teaching–Dewey Decimal System. Though she did it with passion and seriousness, we can’t stop laughing at her. In order to learn reading properly, kids can’t read at home before certain age? That is pretty stupid. The modern education is stupid. It didn’t address talent of some kids and didn’t fit to the need of kids from poor family that can’t afford to have proper education. Scout was abused because she can read at a very young age; Water Cunninghams was humiliated because he can’t afford lunch; Little Chuck Little (one of Ewells’ children) was discouraged to sit in the classroom because he was dirty and filthy.

Events happened in school were not only reflection on modern education but served as hits of later events. Finchs’ kindness to Water Cuninghams helped them to escape a riot; Little Chuck Little haughty behavior indicated the ignorance and cruelness of Ewells.

2,  Boo Radley (Arthur Radley) was another very important hit of the story. The kids were so scared of the Radley house and imaged Boo as a monster trapped in the house with some kind of evil power. They were scared but not without curiosity. They have come closer to the house, from watching near the pole to touching the back door of the house. Connection was established and things start changing between kids and Monster Boo. Well, it is not hard to guess it is Boo who put all sort of little cute things in the hole of the tree;it is Boo who mended the pant Jem left in the fence. Boo was a mystery. The mystery won’t be revealed till the end of story-Boo saved lives of Scout and Jem.

The main theme of the story is What is democracy?

Miss Gate taught her students,”We are a democracy…That’s the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship…Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. Pre-ju-dice.”  Scout asked Atticus why Miss Gate show sympathy of Jew but angry at Blacks? It is very ironic to read this.

The democracy in America, the democracy teachers tried to impose on kids, is hypocritical.

1,The injustice of trail, how people talked against Blacks and those who help them (Nigger lover etc), Aunt Alexandra’s prejudice of Cal, segregation of Blacks–church, court, residency, jobs e.t.c.

What makes white people regard colored people as lower is quite hard to explained. And what makes it worse is they take it from granted and keep passing their wrong opinion to the younger ones.

2, there is no equality between Blacks and Whites; what’s more, there is no equality between males and females. Women (fair sex as it was called) were restricted to home, they were not encouraged to work or even doing fancy thing (eg Miss Maudie devoted herself into gardening), they were not allowed to serve as jury and don’t have right to vote. They would be criticized if they don’t wear dress and behavior like a lady. Scout was rather a Tom boy, healthy, active and joyful. But as she grew older, she saw the inconvenience of being a girl and how people pick on her if she is not lady like.

Question: is this a democracy if people don’t have equal right?  Is this a democracy if people were judged by color, sex, age, class and background?

I love the book, so I decided to watch the movie as well. The B&W movie produced in 1962 is a much rewarded one. I like the movie as general, it captures the essence of the story. But one thing I don’t like in the movie, is the death of Tom Robinson. In the movie, Tom tried to escape right after the trail and was shoot. It was explained they shoot him just as a warning, to scare him, to make him stop running, but unfortunately the shooter was not very good at shooting and thus shoot him dead. But in the book, Tom attempted the escape after 1 year of prison and he was shoot with 17 bullet holes in his body. The keepers wanted to eliminated him, not just injure him. Bloody truth in the book was pacified in the movie, which I am very dissatisfied.

The discrimination is depressing but Lee was trying to point out things were changing. Things changed because people (at least some people) work from their conscience and people are able to see the truth sooner or later. Never lose hope, as long as  we act by our conscience, not abide by majority rule.

I think I will reread this book sometimes.

 

 

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