This marks the third time I’ve read this novel. I first picked it up when I was a naive twelve year old, my first impression being, this is definitely...moreThis marks the third time I’ve read this novel. I first picked it up when I was a naive twelve year old, my first impression being, this is definitely not a story for children. Some of the situations described—the abuse Arthur “Boo” Radley suffered at the hands of his father and older brother and the dialogue of the rape trial—disturbed me. At the time, I had wondered why through all those years no one offered to help Arthur escape from his situation. There were all of those neighbors, not to mention a lawyer living next door, yet everyone turned a blind eye. It seemed so cruel and unjust I couldn’t understand it. I also couldn’t fathom the reason why Tom Robinson felt compelled to help Mayella Ewell when it was common knowledge across the town that this family was trouble. I thought he should have known better, especially on that particular day when he noticed the house was deserted and felt that something was not quite right. Back then those negative images eclipsed all the good elements, which I now consider strengths in Harper Lee’s writing. As an adult, I can now understand the emotional desperation of a young woman isolated and abused being attracted to anyone regardless of race to show affection to a man who showed her kindness and in turn for Tom to forgo social restraints to feel pity for such a girl.
I had to read the book again as a freshman in high school, and even though only the themes of childhood innocence and racial oppression and opposition in a small town were addressed, I began to develop a new respect for the novel and made a mental note to revisit it again. As this year marked the 50th anniversary of its publication and since TCM aired the film a couple times in the past month, I thought now would be a good time for a reread.
Harper Lee is a visual writer, her words paint strong images in your mind’s eye—the only other author that I’ve come across with the same ability is Truman Capote. My favorite part of the novel is Harper’s depiction of the collective mindset of a mob. The mob is not a group of individuals, but an anonymous collective sharing one goal in mind. Showing the simple fact of a child naming one person in the collective could immediately dissolve that mob mentality and turn the collective back into individuals was a depiction masterfully done. Love it! When Scout calls out, “Hey, Mr. Cunningham.” it’s like a celestial ray of light piercing through the dark cloud of mob rule and helping Mr. Cunningham and the others find their individual conscience.
I also like the ambiguity of the ending: Was it really murder or was it just an accident… did Bob Ewell really just trip and fall on his own knife after being pushed away by Boo Radley? Though personally, I prefer the latter version. (less)
I first read this play when I was in the 7th grade, around the time when the film version with Leonardo DiCaprio came out. All the girls in my class—i...moreI first read this play when I was in the 7th grade, around the time when the film version with Leonardo DiCaprio came out. All the girls in my class—including myself—were swooning, all wanting to be Leo’s Juliet. ;) I just loved all of that emotion in his performance…and that final scene…oh! I remember yelling at the screen, “Look at her hand! She’s alive!” Oh, I was devastated. ;)
Looking at the play now, that romance between Juliet and her Romeo is almost amusing, especially when comparing it to the majority of those young adult novels coming out now. Nearly 500 years later, that same plot still has significant relevance today—it’s amazing. Certainly the prose can’t compare, but the emotional content is definitely the same. The secrecy and melodrama, love at first sight, all of the teenage angst, the all or nothing thinking and that all important ingredient of “forbidden love”—can be traced back here! ;) The play still reads like an emotional rollercoaster, with sudden shifts in feelings…the highs and lows of romance, leading to that dramatic and fateful conclusion.
Romeo is certainly not the dashing lover my 12 and 14 year old self thought him to be. His emotional consistency could be likened to the wind, constantly shifting from one way to the next, from one Capulet (Rosaline) to the next (Juliet). But his magnetism lies in his rhetoric—the boy certainly does have a way with words, evoking so much pathos and beauty, though given his age and the circumstances, it does lack emotional depth. The same could be said for Juliet in this whirlwind romance. Yet, this classic drama still has the magnetic pull that draws you in no matter when you reread it and how many years have passed in between readings. Yep, I still love it. :)