Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Some Thoughts...On Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird"


Remember those books everyone read in high school? Remember when by uttering a name, like: Tom Sawyer, Hermione Granger, Mr. Heathcliff, Homer, Atticus Finch or Elizabeth Bennett, conjured images in not only in your own mind but in the minds of others with whom you communicate?

There’s a curriculum of education that says (and I’m paraphrasing here…) that if you require children to read the classics, works of literature that have been held up as worth-while reading for decades and even centuries, they will have an incredible education. The result of reading these is that if they read the classics, their minds will instantly understand complex philosophies or moral quandaries or age-old conflicts that have confronted man forever. When I was first heard of this curriculum, I questioned it. I wondered how much value could there be in reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin when I understood the basic premise. Sure the kids would have read great literature, but how much of an “education” would have really have learned?

I didn’t understand because I hadn’t read a lot of classics, and now, each time I read a classic or a wonderful, time-tested literature, I understand more the value in this educational philosophy.

This week I added to my own personal “education” another example. I finished a book I should have read 35 or 40 years ago. I finally read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.

I thought I understood the book. I thought I understood what was contained within the printed pages, so I didn’t really feel I needed to read the book. I could not have been more wrong. To me, the most powerful aspect of the book is in the innocent narration of a child, looking at life and the evil—and good—of mankind she sees. I believe it resonates to the degree in which it does because as all of us age, we each realize at some point that life is not fair and true evil exists in the world. At at the same time, Scout has as an example a man of character, of morals, someone to show her that goodness is attainable and should be the goal.

There’s not much more I can say that hasn’t already been written about this work. My hope is that in the decades—and even centuries—to come, if someone says that a particular person is like a, “modern-day Atticus Finch,” that everyone will instantly know what that means. 

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