Szplug's Reviews > To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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Apr 16, 2012

it was amazing

This was mandatory reading in grade eleven—but, as was my experience with the majority of the material assigned in English class back in the eighties, I found it so exceptional that I subsequently read it again for pure personal pleasure. I'd be hard pressed to say whether it was this or A Separate Peace that I most enjoyed from the stack of school-ordained literature. Probably Harper Lee's perfect gift to the reading public, though Knowles' sparse knuckle-duster about the gamut of uglier emotions that lurk within us all, especially when the hormones are running amok like superheated popcorn kernels would, at the very least, be nipping at the Mockingbird's splayed feet. But I mean, my chest couldn't have squeezed any tighter—without ejecting a lung from my mouth like the world's biggest wad of tobacco-gravy Hubba Bubba™ —when that jury returned the disgraceful verdict of guilty on the obviously innocent Tom Robinson. Or that entire sequence at the end when Boo Radley brings his awkward and shy ol' self out of the prison created for him by a ramrod father in order the save the children, and Scout manages to conjure up a passel of naïf wisdom to compliment the following proffered by the sheriff:
I may not be much, Mr. Finch, but I'm still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.
Attaboy, Heck Tate!

There's so much else at work here, of course—Scout and Jem and their sibling hijinks and Southern-flavored love of life while trying to sort certain confusing and complex scenarios out; Calpurnia and her firm and musical love, her glimpses into the life of blacks in segregation; and Atticus, Big A, an indelible portrait of a thoroughly decent man endeavoring, at all times, to try and do the right thing. Failing, at times and at ends, as we all do, but using that fact neither as an excuse to retreat from such a difficult standard nor as a seedbed for the cultivation of a weary or waspish cynicism. Sure, there is an aspect of his character that offers a thrill of righteousness for all of those whites either complicit in the injustice or tsk-tsking it from a disapproving height; but it required men of such decency, such a willingness, from the position of privilege and power to make those determinations, didn't it? It had to begin somewhere, even if that beginning may have taken on the reality of approaching the critical point of straws being laden atop a sturdy camel's back. But that hewing of cruel injustice makes for such potent and enduring imagery—one that is forever lodged within my memory is that of Tom's boss, Link Deas, hands wringing with the agonies of what he is observing taking place, unable to control himself from standing up and announcing:
I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing right now. That boy's worked for me eight years an' I ain't had a speck o'trouble outa him. Not a speck.
It's a useless, possibly counter-productive thing to offer up at that point in the trial, but the man wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't say something. There were a lot of useless and counter-productive deeds cast into the pit over the years, but eventually they filled it sufficient that a person could walk over it at an even level with the rest of the land, or at the very least without worrying about falling into its inky depths. It made for an emotional and thought-provoking experience, ingesting it all in those days when a youth's idealism burns with a heat and purity unattainable to those in adult years—simple but lovely family life; decent human beings trying to prevail and to live with one another and assist each other as best as they can; murderous violence evaporated by the simple gift of a recognized suffering and sharing; forgiveness for those who harm us, intentionally or not; and that differences and eccentricities and norm-breaking can convince us we're spying and hunting monsters, when all that time we are merely seeing reflections of ourselves from a image with a slightly different warp and weft—and that with such recognition, there'd never be a need to kill a mockingbird. Harper Lee laced her beautifully-written and -populated book with a bevy of themes and thoughts that have, presumably and enduringly, affected a wide variety of its readers while moving them with her storytelling. Hell of an accomplishment, Miss.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Mariel That's exactly what it's like.

Szplug Thanks, Mars.

Jason 'Tis funny because, besides To Kill a Mockingbird (which still holds as probably my favorite book of all-time), A Separate Peace was the other school-read story that resonated with me almost as strongly at the time.

Szplug Hi Jason. Thanks for taking the time to read those reviews. It's a kick to hear that you would rate the same two novels as your favorites from the assigned reading stack—and the more so because, back in those days, I'm sure I was pretty much alone in having that opinion. Freaking Ontario teens and their barbarian tastes...

Jason Chris, do you care to see my favorite review of A Separate Peace? It is here:

The reviewer completely nails what I love about it. I haven't read it in a long time, but I bet it is one of the few that I've read from school days that would still hold up to an adult read. (I've re-read To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult and that definitely holds up.)

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