Monday, September 7, 2009

It's a Sin to Kill a Mocking Bird

I had always wondered where they came up with the title to this book. Now, I'm glad that I know.

I learned so much from reading To Kill a Mocking Bird, this month. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it in the, "it made me mad" sense. (Sort of like Uncle Tom's Cabin.) I was appalled at the things that I considered wrong, but I loved how the story was told and the people and things that were good.

I also "enjoyed" seeing the evils of the world through the eyes of a child. It once again reminded me that our children are ALWAYS listening and watching us. They understand so much more than we give them credit for, but they also need our guidance and example for the parts that they don't understand yet.

Of course there were lots of parts that weren't easy to read. Parts that made me angry, parts that confused me and made me wonder what I'd have said in that situation. (like when they find out about Tom's death in the Missionary lunch). But there was a lot of good I found in the book as well.

With the narrator being a child, I found this book a very easy to read, story, yet every once in a while they would throw in a comment by a character that was so profound and eloquent. Like when Atticus gave his closing statements in court and brought up Thomas Jefferson and that "All men are created equal" can be taken so many different ways, but that the one place that it is absolutely true is in a court room.
Or the way that Mr. Raymond confessed to putting on an act of being a drunk to make it easier for the town not to like him, because he knew that they wouldn't accept his life style.
I adored Atticus' sense of character. How he always thought of what his children would think of him before he did any actions. And how he could make sure that they heard what he wanted them to hear, even when they thought they shouldn't be listening.
I really enjoyed the lesson learned from Mrs. Dubose. And I love the quote about walking in other people's skin before you pass judgments on them.
I also enjoyed Miss Maudie's way of peacefully and lovingly telling the truth, especially to the children.
Most of all I thought that the book was very nicely summed up in the closing statements when Scout and Atticus said:

"...Atticus, he was real nice..."
"Most people are Scout, when you finally see them."

I don't know if I've ever read a book before that when I was finished I had both an upsetting pit in the bottom of my stomach and a longing to read more of the good.

(Leave your comments here, I can't wait to read what you thought too.)


Sharon in KY said...

I am so very glad that I chose to read To Kill a Mockingbird. From inaccurate descriptions of the book that I've heard over the years...or imagined...who knows...I thought this was the hopeless story of an innocent black man being tried for the rape of a white girl and found guilty, basically, of being black. Though that element is present, it is more the setting in which we meet Scout and Jem (and Dill too), children educated by marvelously fair and brave teachers like their father Atticus and their housekeeper Calpurnia. And in the children, who are as appalled by the injustice as we are, we see the hope of a better tomorrow. They will judge based on the known facts of a case, based on hearing all sides of a case, and based on the character of a person without regard to skin color. And the decisions they make in life will be thoughtful and compassionate.

I didn't take notes on this book. I read most of it one afternoon when I was lying in bed, not feeling well. All I can offer is a list of thoughts off the top of my head:

* I'm having my 13yo son read this book as part of his schoolwork. My hope is he will identify with Jem's growing up and needing to acquire greater patience and self-control. (I'm having him read one chapter, and only one chapter, a day. If I allowed him, my son would read the book as I did, in an afternoon. But I want him to live with the characters a bit longer and hopefully hold on to this story.)
* I loved how Scout came to see the feminine ways of her aunt and her neighbor as a strength, as they smiled and poured tea and engaged others who might have rejoiced over what horrified and saddened them.
* Harper Lee remembered well that children appreciate adults who take them seriously. Also, children don't know what to say in response to adults who are only patronizing them.
* Dill's tender response to the courtroom proceedings and Jem's innocent dismay at the outcome offered hope.
* As a homeschooler I couldn't help but appreciate Scout's views of her public schooling experience: basic reading skills were not taught, true education was not recognized, and the social atmosphere was not positive.
* I would like to have the experience of hearing a congregation sing by "lining".

I do want to read this book again and take notes and consider the meaning of Boo's part in the story, the signifigance of the mockingbird, and discover everything else I missed by reading so quickly.

Shimmy Mom, Thank you for your notes. You reminded me of parts of the story I wasn't able to remember on my own. And I agree with you that one of the best parts of the entire story is seeing it through the eyes of a child.

Shimmy Mom said...

I had similar homeschooling thoughts. And I think I'm going to make my 12 year old read it too.

Sharon in KY said...

The only "assignment" I give my son beyond reading one chapter per day is to give me a narration of that one chapter. I'm getting to experience the book a second time this way.
And I'm enjoying hearing his description of the story because, despite being closer to Jem's age, he sees things more as Scout does. He could relate the events to me of the mob scene before the jail but he didn't understand them anymore than Scout did.

Mr. Mordecai said...

It has been fun reading the comments you have left about your reading. Mrs. M. and I are both very fond of To Kill a Mockingbird, but have read it (and seen the movie) quite a few times.

It was making me think -- it's interesting to see which books people read (as assigned, required reading) when they were in school. When I was growing up I honestly believed that everyone in the whole country read the same exact books in school. I've since realized that (obviously) isn't the case.

For my part - I remember reading (as an entire class) To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, The Great Gatsby, The Crucible, Diary of Anne Frank, A Night to Remember (about the Titanic), and The House on Mango Street.

I know there are others, but I can't remember what they are. Obviously, I read other books as well, but those are the ones I can remember everyone reading together as a group, with class discussions, etc.

I'd be curious to hear which books other people experienced that way.

[Notably, Mrs. M. and I have a somewhat different set, even though we grew up together and went to the same schools.]

Mr. Mordecai said...

Just as an addendum - Mrs. M. and I have been having fun looking at old book reports we wrote. Another I can add to my list of "books read as a class" is Of Mice and Men.

Mrs. Mordecai said...

Going along with Mr. M's discussion, I can remember reading Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, My Antonia, Huckleberry Finn, Farewell to Manzanar, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, The Stranger, and Oedipus Rex for my classes in high school.

I too read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time in ninth grade. I think it is a great reading choice for teenagers: simple enough to understand and enjoy, but there's also so much you can get from it. I remember reading other books in high school, such as The Stranger, and not understanding them at all, and therefore not enjoying them.

I remember enjoying different parts of the book, like Scout dressed as a ham and spying on Boo Radley. I also remember being very angry at the racial injustice in the book. It still makes me think, but in a different way. Instead of getting angry about it now, it just makes me sad. I'm glad we're making progress and hope that racial barriers will continue to dissolve as our children grow up.

Magali said...

I really enjoyed reading this book. My only contact with the story had been with the trial part of the movie with Gregory Peck, wich was used once as a tool in a court interpreters workshop. In other words, I knew basically nothing about it. I do not know how far I was in the book when I realized that Jem and Scout (and Atticus) were white, and even than, at times, there was no distinction, I mean, I could not remember this particular color detail. I think it was because of the way it was written: through the eyes of a child.Through the eyes of a child that has not been spoiled by
adult prejudices, black is a color, not a race.

Sharon in KY said...

Mr. and Mrs. M - You went to a better school than I did.

8th Grade - The Scarlet Letter
9th Grade - Romeo and Juliet
10th Grade - Hopefully at least one book was read and discussed but I don't recall it.
11th Grade - Brave New World
12th Grade - Again, I don't recall one.

On one hand it represents a poor education. On the other hand, there are LOTS of really good books that are still brand-new for me.

When I have the opportunity I'm going to ask around to find out what books the local high schoolers have assigned to them.

Shimmy Mom said...

I'm with Sharon on this one, I had very little required reading in school.

7th=Call of the Wild
8th= Lord of the Flies (hated it)
9th=Romeo and Juliet
11th= The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible

Now you know why I wanted a reading group that read the classics. I hadn't read many.