Saturday, July 18, 2015
I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird
Till earlier this week, unlike most of you who started out there reading career with this book in high school or junior high, I came at it from the other side. After reading thousands of books then going back and reading what some people consider their favorite novel. Then I went on immediately to read, Go Set a Watchman (stop here if you don’t want spoilers). Both are novels of their time with many of the same characters, one told through the eyes of an intelligent observant little girl over the period of a couple of years, a coming of age story. The other over a period of a couple of days of the same girl, 26 and a bit jaded who comes home to visit after living years in New York. In Mockingbird, Atticus through her eyes is an almost supernatural being of good whom always has the most ethical response to any given issue and young impressionable Scout takes that into herself. The novel was richly worded with descriptions that made you think of hot summers spent on the porch, how children viewed the world around them. In Watchman, Scout comes home and her illusions are torn away, the civil rights movement is just starting and people in her hometown are taking sides which are divided along color lines. Scout is way ahead of her time, she was raised by Atticus and tends to see people as people, not color but in that time and place, color and social status are everything. While I enjoyed Watchman, it seems like Harper Lee didn’t write it for our enjoyment, she wrote it to document a portion of her life. It’s not as polished and for fans who hold To Kill a Mockingbird in their hearts, portions of it are painful and raw, Scout has grown up, she’s not much of a lady but she carried the values that were taught to her as a little girl into adulthood and now she’s seeing her small southern town with eyes that have seen the world and is not a happy camper. She is the moral compass of this story and at the end, you don’t know where she is going in life. The case against Tom Robinson is mentioned but it says it’s an acquittal in Watchman. Jem, who is such a pivotal character in Mockingbird has died young, Dill is off in some foreign land and Boo didn’t make the cut. This fills in the story but I’m not sure if it offers actual answers. Mockingbird rings with Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life and Watchman reminds me of all of the times I went home and that life had continued on without me, people growing up and changing and living their own lives, not the snapshot I carried of that place I grew up in my head.