I never had to read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school. Just as well. The bulk of the books I was forced to read in high school were boring. To Kill...moreI never had to read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school. Just as well. The bulk of the books I was forced to read in high school were boring. To Kill A Mockingbird doesn’t really have the blood and mayhem like the Anita Blake books or the In Death series or David Weber’s books.
But, for banned book week, from September 30 2012 to October 6, 2012, I decided to read To Kill A Mockingbird.
It’s not as boring as I expected. It doesn’t have nearly the same level of suspense and tension as my preferred reads, but it wasn’t boring. Having said that, I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again.
To Kill A Mockingbird is supposed to be a first novel. Frankly, that’s hard to believe. It may be the first (and last!) novel published, but that doesn’t mean it’s the first novel Harper Lee wrote. To Kill A Mockingbird is written very well. It shows the growth of Scott – yes, despite the reviews stating none of the characters grew at all, there is character growth. It is gently shown, gently depicted, so gently you hardly notice it at all. It is all so well-done I can’t believe this is a first novel. I can’t even believe she stopped writing after she finished To Kill A Mockingbird.
I knew from the first sentence that the book took place during in the Depression. The family must have been truly rich before the Depression, to be able to afford a cook and housekeeper during the Depression.
At first, I thought Scout was a boy. Scout isn’t a name I associate with a girl. Plus, it’s the 1930’s, and she doesn’t act the way I imagined girls in the 1930’s acted. She’s a tomboy. I only realized Scout is a girl when someone says her full name. Than I thought: wow, she’s a girl. How wonderful.
I found a couple of things odd in To Kill A Mockingbird:
1) Scout and her brother call their Dad by his first name: Atticus
2) On her first day of school, Scout’s teacher is upset because she can already read and write. Part of me is not surprised because I, too, had a teacher who told me not to write in cursive since it hadn’t actually been taught yet. But I don’t understand a teacher who would be upset because her student could already read.
To Kill A Mockingbird is known for being a coming-of-age novel and it is banned for offensive language and racism.
I don’t think anyone can deny there is racism in the book, but the main characters are not racist. Quite the opposite. Many of the other characters are racist, and yeah, that undoubtedly influences the feel of the book.
Scout’s aunt’s group of ladies are supposed to be good, Christian women but in one breath they praise god, the next breath they make racist comments. They don’t see it, and yeah, I think that’s deliberate. I am not sure how Calpurnia (the black cook) stood it. I suppose she wasn’t causing waves, doing her job, stuff like that. Still. I am surprised Calpurnia was able to hold her tongue.
Then there is the whole trial involving Tom Robinson. It was a real trial, and the some of the characters say that was odd. Still. Apparently Tom Robinson never stood a chance. That’s probably what prompted his escape attempt – he didn’t believe justice was possible. The white girl was clearly lying, possible being molested by her own father (she did say kissing her father didn’t count, didn’t she? I don’t know. Possible child molestation there. Not sure.) But lying for sure and no one on the jury cared. It’s not hard to understand why Tom Robinson didn’t believe justice was possible for him.
So, yeah, there is racism in the book. But it’s not really depicted in a positive way. More tragic and sad. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book.
Offensive language – yes, there is offensive language in To Kill A Mockingbird. Most of them involve race. Many times they are directed at Scout’s father for actually defending a black man. Scout uses offensive words to try and get out of going to school. (She fails in this attempt.) The offensive words don’t show up for no reason, and they don’t show up all that often, either. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book, either.
I’d heard To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming-of-age novel, but I don’t think it is. At least, it doesn’t go far enough. To me coming-of-age means you are growing up and going through the worse trials of growing up. It’s the transition from childhood to adulthood.
At the beginning of the book Scout is 6 years old and 9 years old at the end. She grows a lot, learns a lot in those three years. 9 isn’t grown up. She still’s a child. At the end of the book, she’s puts herself in Boots’ shoes and regrets she never paid him back for all the little gifts he gave them.
But she still has a lot of growing left to do. She still has to go through the teen years, still has to go through High School. High School will likely be more difficulty than her life so far. Not least, because she still has to yet learn girl skills. Or maybe she doesn’t. But in the time she is living, being a tomboy will only draw criticism. Which sucks, yeah, but gender roles were a lot more fixed back then. I suspect stepping out of gender roles would be very very difficult and likely require all the wisdom she learned from her father. (He raised her to be who she is.)(less)
Hit Lit explains or attempts to explains what American bestselling books have in common. It talks about 12 books:
1. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper...moreHit Lit explains or attempts to explains what American bestselling books have in common. It talks about 12 books:
1. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. 1960. 134 editions, over 140,000,000 copies sold. 2. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. 1956. 10, 670, 302 copies sold. 3. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. 1966. About 30, 000, 000 copies sold worldwide. 4. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. 1936. Close to 30, 000, 000 copies sold in the 1990′s. 5. Jaws by Peter Benchley. 1974. By 1975, more than 9, 275, 000 copies sold. 6. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. 1992. About 50, 000, 000 copies sold worldwide. 7. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. 1984. 5 to 6 million sold. 8. The Godfather by Mario Puzo. 1969. By 1975, over 12, 000, 000 copies sold. 9. The Firm by John Grisham. 1991. Spent 47 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. 10. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. 1971. Four years after publication, 22, 702, 097 copies sold. 11. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. 2003. 81, 000, 000 copies sold. 12. The Dead Zone by Stephan King. 1979. King’s first novel to break into year-end top ten.
I have not read any of these books. I cannot say if what he says about them is true. Really, I ought to read a few just to see if I agree with him. I even teased this book yesterday.
He says all of these books have 12 things in common.
1. An Offer You Can’t Refuse: page-turner 2. Hot Buttons: something people can’t help but argue about. 3. The Big Picture: sweeping backdrop 4. The Golden Country: a lost Eden, the true homeland the MC has lost. 5. Facts: He says people want to learn about other stuff from novels. I don’t agree. 6. Secret Societies: secrets about the ocean, about the bedroom, conspiracies and groups no one else knows about. 7. Bumpkins vs Slickers and vice versa: people move back and forth from the country to the city, from the city to the country 8. God: the characters have doubts about god and religion. 9. American Dream/Nightmare: rags to riches, and conversely, riches to rags. 10. Mavericks: rebels, loners, misfits, trailblazers, free spirits, nonconformists, bohemians. characters who are slightly out of step with their world. 11. Fractured Families: characters are missing some part their family. parents, siblings, children. 12. Juicy Parts: sex.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse is basically good stuff that keeps you turning the page. It’s speed, tension, danger and characters you are in love with. It’s something dangerous going on with the character and you can’t look away because you want to know what happens next. It’s everything that makes you turn the page. This, I have no problem with. He also talks about how these books are movie-friendly. They are high-concept. Basically, that’s when you sum up the drama of the book quickly. It helps the marketing, he says, and word of mouth, too.
I suppose it makes sense, but I am not sure I like the idea that for a book needs to high-concept in order to succeed.
I don’t agree with the facts thing. He says people want to learn from novels. Learn about other people, other ways of living, things like that. Like how live in a small town, how you live in a large city, gossip. I don’t agree. I mean, there have been plenty of bestsellers that you can’t learn anything from. He says you learn stuff about gods and feminism, Mary Magdalene and the Hebrew alphabet from The Da Vinci Code. And he says the number of books that have shown saying Da Vinci Code is wrong is just proof of that, but I don’t know. The Hunt for Red October is apparently filled with stuff about submarines and government protocols for this, that and the other.
A writer’s research should be good, but it’s hard to believe facts are a factor in bestsellers. They add details and they are important. But people don’t read novels to learn. Do they? I mean, I don’t. Someone tell me I am not alone.
Also, I do recommend this book. It’s pretty interesting. Also, I got it as an ARC.(less)