Scout, Atticus, and Boo

Friday, November 25, 2011

Scout, Atticus, and Boo

A Celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird

by Mary McDonough Murphy


The author created both a documentary and a book compiling the thoughts of authors, teachers and celebrities about the wonderful classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. She included everyone from Oprah to Harper Lee’s own sister to the actress who played Scout in the movie. The book chronicles people’s favorite scenes, their questions, their first experience reading it and the reasons why they love it.

People all over the wor
ld have been touched by the book because of the issues it addresses and the young characters’ unique points-of-view. Lee could talk about racism or a morphine addiction without it seeming too dark, because Scout and Jem were so innocent. Their questions don’t feel preachy because they ask them out of true spirit of curiosity. Lee also made the wise decision to set the book a few decades earlier than it was published, in the 1930s, so people in the south were able to look at the issue of racism while distancing themselves from the issue.

(Me and Harper Lee in the Monroeville Courthouse)

So many people in the book talk about how they wanted to know exactly what was fact and what was fiction. I never wondered about that. I suppose I always assume an author can’t help but put themselves in their novels in one way or another, but it doesn’t affect me too much as the reader.

One thing I loved discovering was that Harper's sister Alice was such a B.A. She worked for the IRS, then as a journalist, then as a lawyer, and even in her 90s, she still practices in Monroeville. She bucked the norms and worked in male-dominated fields, never backing down from a new challenge.

Many people compared the book to Gone with the Wind and there are some amazing similarities. Both are set in the south, deal with racism, were written by women, were the only novels written by their authors, etc. They are such different books, but it’s interesting to think about the threads that connect them.

The fact that Harper Lee withdrew from the public eye has always been a point of interest for people. One person in the book suggests that she may have done that after seeing what happened to her friend Truman Capote when he embraced his fame. It would be horrible to watch your friend self-destruct in that way. I’ve always had such respect for Lee’s choice to withdraw from the limelight. She knew she didn’t want that spotlight on her for the rest of her life; so instead, she went and lived a rich life with her friends and family in Monroeville.

I read this during my recent road trip through Alabama, while we were on our way to Monroeville to see the town and courthouse that started it all. I’m sure that played a huge part in why I enjoyed this so. I already felt immersed in the South and in that story, so reading others thoughts on it fit right in.

If you don’t adore To Kill a Mockingbird, this book isn’t for you, but hopefully that’s pretty obvious. For the rest of us, it’s a chance to revisit a favorite book and to look at it through a dozen different pairs of eyes.

*Photo by the Huz and from here.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Are there really people out there that don't adore this book? I don't think I'd like them if they don't. This book is classic, and precious. I think it is so cool that you visited the courthouse, and took the same picture as Lee did.

Trisha said...

I love the idea of a book like this; companion pieces are great for books you love.

Ana S. said...

What Trisha said! This sounds like such a great read.

Kailana said...

This sounds like it could be worth checking out!

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Interesting theory about Truman Capote. I always thought that the pressure was too much, after writing a book that was so close to perfection, so she decided to quit while on top.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I'm such a dork, but I'm glad the Huz is willing to put up with my literary geekout and take silly pictures.

Trisha - I felt like it gave me a whole new appreciation for the book.

Nymeth - It was perfect for my trip.

Kailana - I really want to re-read Mockingbird again now.

Alex - I agree that the pressure was why she didn't write another book. She even told her cousin that she didn't want to write another one because there was no where to go but down. But I think the Truman thing is why she has stayed out of the limelight. She could have given speeches and interviews for years, but she refused everything after the first few.