Friday, November 8, 2013

October's Book: To Kill a Mockingbird

Astonishingly, I hadn't read this one yet. A little less astonishingly, events prevented me from writing this entry until now despite having actually finished reading the book on Halloween. To the benefit of all my American friends' consciences for now knowing I've read To Kill a Mockingbird, here it is:


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Literature (1960 - 257 pp.)

More than enough has been said about To Kill a Mockingbird, and I have read almost none of the many binders full of essays and book reports filed on it. Therefore, I will be brief. The storyline is easy to follow and well-told, with the plot acting as the defining feature of the book. The setting is convincing, the characters less so. Atticus Finch is the most essential Mary Sue I have ever read, and the antagonists - however defined, but the Ewells will suffice - have so few redeeming qualities they are barely human. The blatantly clear good versus evil dynamic in such a socially complex setting dampens the conflict, as none of the characters ever seem to be torn up about anything. Mrs. Dubose is possibly the most human character in the whole book, mainly because Atticus explains why she is to Jem and Scout partway through. If there is one thing I can possibly add, and I presume someone has thought of this well before I have, it is the observation that Atticus is basically Eddard Stark. Doing right and accepting blame to a fault crosses over multiple genres and time periods, it appears.

The quotation from the book that resonates most with me is one from Atticus a short time before the famed trial: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do." (103) It's something I have found true in my life and I am sure many others who have read the book in its 53 years of existence have as well.

This is an easy read, with a couple points taken off for the occasional Southernisms that make us Northerners pull up a dictionary. The book, while educational in the sense of providing a telling picture of interwar Alabama, is not a traditionally educational book in the way some of the others I have read for this blog are. As a side note, the anti-Hitler comments on page 223 seem more like they are from 1960 than 1935. In 1935, Adolf Hitler's various actions were either not nearly as publicized or simply not done yet. That a family in small-town Alabama would even know who the leader of Germany was at the time seems surprising, let alone that it would take that particular view toward the particular issue mentioned (i.e. reasoned opposition to his persecution of the Jews).

Ease of Reading: 8
Educational Content: 5

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