This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

February is classics month for my book club, thus this one was the chosen one.

I have always wanted to read it. Yet another classic that I never laid eyes on.

I have, however, seen the movie - and own it. It's good but not great, IMO.

And I would say the same for the book. While I enjoyed it and the moral overtones of the novel are moving, it stilll did not keep me intensely in tuned.

Quite honestly, I believe seeing the movie beforehand impacted the story. I was continually comparing what I was reading to the movie.

And as I mentioned before, the movie is not one of my favorites. But the morality of the book in dealing with racism in the 1930s was redeeming to me. To know, that Harper Lee created these characters: Atticus, Jem and Scout especially, to follow their given instincts NOT TO HATE anyone for the color of their skin.

It was a pretty decent follow up to The Last Lecture, as it was still the subject of being a good person, and being good to people, in your life.

I doubt that I need to recap the story but just a quick review: Atticus Finch is a small town, respected lawyer, who defends a black man (Tom Robinson) who was falsely accused of rape. Scout and Jem are his children (daughter and son, respectively). Scout does not understand why the town thinks of them as, um, NEGRO lovers -- and why the connotation is negative. And Jem knows why and hates that the townsfolk feel that way.

The novel continues to account the trial and then the years in the aftermath of the trial.

I think what I found hard was that nothing really GOOD came out of it. I mean, yes, these people defended the low man on the totem pole, but it was discouraging to read nothing really changed. It's all baby steps in reality but I could have used a Rocky Balboa moment of redemption, perhaps vengeance even...:-)

But there are some significant lines that I folded to refer to here...words that mean the world to me.

When Scout questions Atticus about how he must be wrong to defend Tom Robinson, because everyone else in the town disagreed with him, Atticus says to her:

"They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions...but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

Later, when Jem, who had a very difficult time dealing with Tom Robinson's guilty sentence, asks Atticus why he was convicted without witnesses; how is it that men have been hanged from just circumstantial evidence, Atticus tells him:

"I know, and lots of 'em probably desrved it, too -- but in the abscence of eyewitnesses there's always a doubt, sometimes only the shadow of a doubt. The law says 'reasonable doubt,' but I think a defendant's entitled to the shadow of a doubt. There's always the possibility, no matter how improbable, that he's innocent."

Do I have to repeat how much I believe in that above paragraph? I tell you: the people of Maycomb are not much different than people in THIS day and age, who allow media and emotion to get the best of their better conscience, and convict people without evidence...even before there is a trial!

And lastly, when Jem doesn't like Atticus' statement that no matter what, the white man will win -- 'they're ugly, but those are the facts of life'. Jem says it's not fair, it's not right. To which the brilliant Atticus says, among other things:

"...The one place where a man outght to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it -- whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash."

For me, this doesn't apply only to race or religion, but just being a good person. And the douche bags of this world: this applies to them. The assholes who think they are better than another, because of his arrogance, his wealth, his position in society, TRASH be it white trash, black trash, mexican trash, male-trash, etc.

I'm glad I read this one and maybe one day, I'll read it again. I just hope that my daughters, when they find they want to read it, will be moved by the ideals of the Finch family.

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