Friday, 16 July 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

This summer the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee celebrates its 50th birthday. Some would argue this novel is past its prime and is no longer relevant in 2010. I disagree for a number of reasons.

While racial segregation is no longer legal, it is very important to remember that it was around and that the repercussions of its presence are still evident. As well, there are still pockets still evident within North America. We learn from our past and even a fictional novel still helps us to learn for our future, if we choose to.

This is a story told through the eyes of a child. If you ever get the chance to listen to an excellent reader tell the story, and to hear Scout’s voice you will be mesmerized by her 6 year old Southern voice. She captures your heart and imagination as she makes sense of her world, and its racist ways.

There are many web sites and books with summaries and notes about the book. I don’t need to write a summary here.

I'm going to write about my memories. I don’t know what my favourites are. Is it Jem’s brotherly affection for Scout; the perfect blend of love and frustration as well as his desire to grow up and his bitter realization of the hypocrisy of adults? Or is it Dill’s appearance in the cabbage patch, his wild exaggerations of his father and his acceptance by Jem and Scout? Or is it Calpurnia’s motherly love of the children who do not have a mother? Or is it the children’s ability to diffuse the tension at the courthouse on the evening the men come to lynch Tom? Or, is it Atticus’ quiet dignity and absolute expectation of his children to treat all with dignity and respect? Or is it Scout’s acceptance of Boo Radley? There are so many more. Each page is a treat. It is no surprise that Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, the only one she ever wrote. Horton Foote wrote the screenplay for the movie, which also won many Academy awards.

What’s better the book or the movie? They are both amazing. The book must be read, there are so many parts that the movie just can’t capture. But, the movie is also a must see. Gregory Peck is absolutely amazing, as are all of the other actors. Robert Duvall actually made his acting debut in this movie.

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