Marie's Reviews > To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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's review
Oct 09, 11

bookshelves: fiction, southern
Read from October 04 to 07, 2011

http://mariesbookgarden.blogspot.com/...

I believe I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school or college, and since that time the iconic images of the movie with Gregory Peck have replaced my memories of the book.

My book group chose Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee as its October book, and I thought my reading would be enriched by rereading the great classic that rocketed Harper Lee to fame...especially since last week was Banned Books Week (and To Kill a Mockingbird is always on those lists).

Now that I'm older and wiser, I have a greater understanding for how remarkable this book is. First of all, the fact that it was Harper Lee's first novel (and only one, as it turns out). Second, the fact that Lee grew up in a small, insular southern town and had such vision and empathy for the underprivileged. As most people know, many of the characters are based on her own life...she based Scout on herself, Dill on her best friend Truman Capote, and Atticus on her own father. Many of the minor characters, too, are based on people she knew in small-town Monroeville, Alabama.

After reading The Help so recently, I couldn't help but compare the two novels...both are Southern stories told from the white perspective, although Mockingbird was based in the 1930s rather than the 1960s. In spite of the 30-year time difference, the incidents and environment didn't seem all that different. A black man in Alabama wouldn't have gotten a fair trial in the 1960s either, as we know. Somehow, I found To Kill a Mockingbird so much richer and genuine than The Help...perhaps because Kathryn Stockett was trying to write a story in the viewpoint of a white person, yet came off as condescending and one-dimensional (certainly not her intention). As Lee writes in Scout's childish viewpoint, it's clear that she's naive and is learning the ways of the world.

I love Scout's character, in particular because she was such a great feminist at such an unlikely age and place. She simply did not get why girls had to be all prissy and proper when it was more fun to climb trees, read books, and play outside. To Kill a Mockingbird is a great novel on so many levels: it's a loving portrait of the American South, in spite of its evil side. It's a story of deep childhood friendship and sibling relationships, and it's a tale of justice, wisdom, and acceptance of people who are different from ourselves.

One thing that stood out to me: early on, Scout describes the fact that she has no mother, and says "Our mother died when I was two, so I never felt her absence." Harper Lee had a strained relationship with her own mother, partly because she didn't fit the feminine archetype and partly because her mother suffered from what appeared to be mental illness (possibly bipolar). To cut the mother out of the story was a convenient choice, and to say that she never felt her absence because she died when Scout was two is an interesting (and unrealistic) thought. I'm not sure whether Lee honestly did not think that this kind of death would not have an impact on a child, or whether she was conveying Scout's ignorance. At any rate, this seemed off to me. Clearly, the family's African-American maid, Calipurnia, filled that motherhood hole for Scout and Jem, and fortunately they had a wise, loving, and attentive father.

Knowing that Lee's mother suffered from mental illness, it makes me view the character of Boo Radley differently as well. Perhaps Lee was trying to portray mental illness in a sympathetic way because of what her own mother experienced?

I will most likely have more observations about this novel as I make my way through Mockingbird. I greatly enjoyed my rereading of this classic, and now I want to see the movie again!
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Quotes Marie Liked

Harper Lee
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“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.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“Atticus, he was real nice."

"Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“Atticus said to Jem one day, "I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird." That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. "Your father’s right," she said. "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.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“It's not time to worry yet”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky 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.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“Try fighting with your head for a change...
it's a good one, even if it does resist learning.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time. It's because he wants to stay inside.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“As a reader I loathe introductions...Introductions inhibit pleasure, they kill the joy of anticipation, they frustrate curiosity.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“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, he is trash.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat. Try fightin' with your head for a change.
-Atticus Finch”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
tags: love

Harper Lee
“Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee
“Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Reading Progress

10/04/2011 page 73
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