Did I like To Kill A Mockingbird? Yes. I never groaned internally when I had to read more chapters, and I was able to stay engrossed in the story.
Is To Kill A Mockingbird the next Outsiders in my list of favorite books? Definitely not. While the book was alright, I feel like the action increased exponentially from an infinitesimally minuscule amount. The last four or five chapters were great, the court scene kept me on the edge of my seat, but the rest of the book is just a little too flat. I felt like the rest of it was so stuffed full of theme and foreshadowing and social commentary and morals, there wasn’t enough room in the cracks for a decent story.
My group focused on Scout’s character as we read, and how Scout interacts with the world around her. I found a really profound quote. Generally, Scout is a tomboy. She likes scrapping around with Jem and Dill, wearing overalls, and avoiding all things ladylike. However, on the night everyone finds out that Tom is dead, Scout’s Aunt Alexandra was hosting a party with the other women in Maycomb. Aunty has to go back inside like nothing ever happened, and Scout thinks to herself, “If Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.” This was the first time I had ever seen Scout show a desire to act ladylike, and it showed the very subtle change in her character. She’s still very much a tomboy, but now she’s just a little less so.
Some general interesting points…
Tom Robinson is the metaphorical Mockingbird. He didn’t do anything to anyone, just lived his own life, but he is shot down with the accusation and sentence of guilt. Then, he is actually killed, to add to his punishment. (It mentions the mockingbird in passing within the book, but I figured it out before that happened).
One less distinct Mockingbird that our class has discovered is Boo Radley. He finally shows up in the last few chapters. He has shown to be a kind and compassionate soul throughout the book, from patching Jem’s pants and giving them little gifts and putting a blanket around Scout during the winter fire. And then, he saves both Jem and Scout from being killed by Mr. Ewell.
The sheriff covers up the fact that Boo killed Mr. Ewell because he, too, is compassionate. He knows that Boo is shy and doesn’t like to be out, and he doesn’t want to thrust him into the limelight. He also knows that Boo Radley killing a man… is just believable. There were rumors that he’d stabbed someone with scissors, and people wouldn’t hesitate to persecute him for murder. Mr. Tate asks the Finches to play along in a lie, saying Mr. Ewell fell on his own knife. Atticus reluctantly agrees, and Scout says to him that if they’d followed the law and been cruel to poor Boo, “it would be like shootin’ a mockingbird”.
Mr. Ewell shot at two of them – one was killed, but the other flew free from his posthumous grasp.
In our final discussion, we read an essay called “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings”, and from there we talked about things we hide from others – secret lives – and the idea of not assuming we know everything about a person. We came to the conclusion that Scout, Dill and Jem, as children, are blind to some things, and that makes them unbiased when it comes to racism. They don’t yet see the benefit of hurting other people, which is why Atticus says that “only children weep” when unfair things, such as Tom’s guilty sentence, happen.
The combination of the essay and To Kill a Mockingbird, as a whole, follow the moral of “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Many people are judged in TKAM, and people assume they know their whole story – about Boo Radley’s seclusion, Atticus’s reasoning behind defending Tom, Tom’s qualification to give his own view on the case. But there is always something that is hidden, an aspect of their lives that is secret, that someone on the outside can never understand. So instead of trying to understand everything about them, one should just acknowledge that a hidden light is there.