Monday, October 28, 2013

31 Days of Books: To Kill a Mockingbird

Title:  To Kill a Mockingbird

Author:  Harper Lee

Published:  1960

Year I read it:  2005

One sentence summary:  "Scout" Finch, a young tomboy, is growing up in southern Alabama when her father, attorney Atticus Finch, decides, against town sentiments, to represent a black man accused of raping a white girl, giving Scout and her brother, Jem, a harsh introduction to prejudices, racism, and misconstrued "justice."

Interesting fact:  In December of 1956, author & producer Michael Brown gave Harper Lee a gift: a year's worth of wages with a note that said, "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas."  She wrote To Kill a Mockingbird - the only novel she published. [I think this is one of the best Christmas presents I've ever heard of, and I think we all owe him a  "Thank You" note.]

Three reasons to read it:
  • Atticus Finch - without a doubt, one of the greatest fathers in print (or on screen).  He represents so much of what a father should be: patient, caring, and modeling virtues like true justice to his children.
  • This book is offers a hard, but significant perspective on racism.  Lee based much of Scout's view on what her own childhood was like, growing up surrounded by racial prejudice, but just emerging to realize how wrong it was.
  • Like I mentioned with Room, Lee finds a way to address a very difficult subject by approaching it from a child's point-of-view.  In doing so, she causes her audience to dial back into each person's innate sense of justice.  It's a very powerful technique.

One reason you maybe shouldn't:
  • Not appropriate for very young children, but above 13 or so, highly recommended!
Great quotes:

“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 see it through no matter what."

“The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.”  

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” 

"Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”  

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.” 

“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” 


  1. One of my favorite books of all time.
    And I love that interesting fact - SO cool!!

  2. There are only two books that have made me cry: Les Miserables and this one. To Kill a Mockingbird is a masterpiece. All the way through you know what's going to happen to poor Tom Robinson but that doesn't make it any less heartbreaking or tragic. I love your taste in literature :)

    Oh, I tried to send you an email a couple of weeks ago but I'm not sure if it actually got sent.

    1. Thank you! Yes - a true masterpiece!

  3. This is not great literature, and I avoid teaching it at all costs. It's not even good reading. The characters are black and white two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. The rednecks are evil, the blacks are victims, and the self-righteous Atticus is too good to be true. There is nothing here to examine or explore. Critical thinking skills can be checked at the door. Moreover, if the lack of complexity and verisimilitude doesn't stick in your craw, then the insipid narration of the androgynous Scout will. This novel is popular due, in part, to the fact that the reader can feel morally superior to white trailer trash as he identifies with the demigod, Atticus. Shakespeare, the consummate craftsmen of characterization, understood that even the evil (save Iago) have some redeeming qualities, and the good flaws. To Kill a Mockingbird is about as deep as a rain puddle.

    1. Well then agree to disagree then :)