Just Read ~ To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960)

November 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

My first encounter with To Kill a Mockingbird was a sad one, at school, when my English wasn’t good enough to understand the beauty and importance of this book. I soon gave up and forgot about it on the shelf (please don’t tell my English teacher). But after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God over the summer and The Help recently I decided that it was time. It was time to make peace with it and give it another chance, because I knew that it was more than worth it.

And, fellow readers, believe me, it was. Of course, praising To Kill a Mockingbird is safe – more people than I can count place it in their top-ten list. Nothing new here. But it’s always new when you’re the one making the discovery. So humour me, and share my wonder.

I am astounded at Harper Lee’s capacity to convey Scout’s voice as a child, her voice as an adult, Atticus’s thoughts but also what has been left unsaid, all in one. It is a difficult subject to write about but the author masters her words and where injustice is uttered and prejudice remains, little gestures or phrases hint that there’s something else growing in the dark, waiting to be felt and understood, by Scout, but also by the slowly evolving town.

Because it is famous and so much has been written about it more eloquently than this, I will focus on the passage that makes me shiver every time I think about it – because it is so painfully moving, so simple and because someone managed to write it so powerfully. It takes place in chapter 19 during the trial when Tom Robinson is being questioned by the lawyer, Mr. Gilmer, and gives an ‘unsatisfactory’ answer.

‘Yes suh. I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try harder than the rest of ’em -‘

You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?’

Three little words in italics. And everything is said.

There are books that make you swell with anger and bring bitterness into your throat at the ache and horror they describe. To Kill a Mockingbird does more than this – it also carries the salve that allows you to hope that perhaps, despite the sorrow and the waste, the personal battles of some men were not fought for nothing. So if you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favour and go read this book.

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