Sunday, August 7, 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

What I knew (or thought I knew) about To Kill a Mockingbird:

1. It's about the trial of a wrongly accused black man.
2. It has strange named characters like Scout and Atticus.
3. Every female who has ever read the book has secretly (ok, not too secretly) longed to name their own daughter "Scout"
4. I am the only American born after this book's publication, who was not required to read this book at some point during his education.

It turns out that To Kill a Mockingbird isn't really 'about' the trial of a wrongly accused black man. The trial is part of the events of the book as is it's aftermath, but it really takes up very little of the story.  No,  To Kill a Mockingbird is really about a young girl, Scout, learning about tolerance through the incredibly wise teachings and actions of her father, Atticus.  I have a soft spot for stories about fatherhood...the one's that show it in a favorable light that is.  When I read "The Road", it is not the question of why we choose to carry on with the absence of hope that draws me is simply the love of the Father that engages me.  In Mockingbird, the character of Atticus comes across as pretty distant from his children at times, but it is when he implores Scout over and over again to "put yourself in the other's shoes" that his love for all of mankind shines through.

At the end of the book Scout says,"...he was real nice."

Atticus' simple response sums up the story's theme, "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."

To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't break much new ground as a novel.  Ms. Lee's prose isn't all that memorable.  But what it does well, it does astoundingly well.  And that is tell a story that emotionally captures the reader, and gives him/her one small, but important thing to ponder after he/she puts the book down.  It's not a book I will soon forget.