Yes, our next book in English class is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, yet another classic American novel. We read up to Chapter 10 for this week. My first impressions are undecided. I’ve been told that the characters are really what make this book amazing, and I can see that. So many of them have distinctive personalities – Atticus with his moral righteousness, Jem with his leadership and boyish ideas, Miss Maudie with her wisdom, Francis with his pompous superiority. There has been some excellent character development so far, such as describing the Ewells through the Burris Ewell incident at school.
However, the story is pretty flat, plot-wise. It’s following their life, and normal life has no plot of course, but I’m missing the action. Maybe it’ll pick up as I read on.
Secret lives have been mentioned a couple times. For instance, when Scout starts school, Jem doesn’t want her to talk to him there or bring up things he does at home. He’s trying to separate his home antics from his social life at school. I’m still waiting for some long term impacts or themes to arise, because they’re bound to eventually and I’ll be ready to catch them.
I’m following the narrator, Scout Finch, to track how she changes through the novel. She’s feisty, tomboyish, and tough from hanging out with her older brother Jem and their friend Dill all the time (Dill, by the way, is currently my favorite character. This is the first book with a love interest we’ve read this year and I’m a big fan). However, her Aunt Alexandra complains about her boyish tendencies, yet she’s starting to become “more like a girl,” to quote Jem. She’s beginning to see gender expectations as she grows older, and she’s doubting where she fits within them.
In our discussion, we brought up the topic of Scout’s name, which I thought was interesting in regards to the gender roles theme. The word “scout” is generally meant to imply outdoors, hiking, exploring, and it’s fairly androgynous as a nickname. Scout’s real name is Jean Louise, which is obviously feminine. At school, the teachers call her by her girl name, while at home, Jem calls her Scout. We think that this is part of the reason Scout doesn’t like school, because she’s thrust into a setting where the gender roles are stricter. She prefers to be home with her brother and the neighbors, where she can run around and get dirty and wear overalls and just be Scout.
Two questions as I read on – Where does Dill fit in, in regards to Scout’s exploration of gender roles? (Because Dill is fun, but I want to uncover his relevance, too).
What is the significance of Boo Radley putting the blanket on Scout during the fire scene? (I want to find out what Boo Radley’s deal is, because he shot at Jem and the gang in the dark but he also mended Jem’s pants and gave Scout the blanket. I’m also pretty sure he was the one who kept putting neat things in the tree hole for them to find).
Reading is the only way to know.