Hello Again, Harper
The innocent, testing years of adolescence introduced me to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Naturally, at GCSE level, you read the book you’re set, revise it, and remember the myriad of quotes for yet another seemingly endless exam (though whether you chose to actually read it, or ‘Spark Notes’ it was a conundrum itself). Yet, when introduced to this book – this classic – I think myself and my class mates at the time completely underestimated it. God forbid, we may have actually enjoyed it.
Of course, as you grow up and you revisit the story of the frustrated town of Maycomb for an enjoyable experience, rather than to regurgitate information for an exam, you see another side to it: the innocence of Scout and Jem Finch as they peer over the stands to witness the trail of an innocent man standing in a corrupted society. Such corruption was far more common at the time Harper Lee sets this novel, which incorporates much of her own childhood experiences. Lee directly addresses this historically important and culturally relevant concept:
“Atticus, what’s a nigger lover?” …
“Scout, it’s one of those terms that don’t mean anything.”
Atticus Finch, the Albus Dumbledore or Gandalf the Grey of US literature, denotes the term; and who in their right mind would ignore the wise advice of this heart-warming character? It seems Atticus had a tough fight ahead, and what makes this story so challenging is that [spoiler alert] the court find him guilty despite a lack of convincing evidence. It is Tom’s word against Mayella Ewell’s. But this in itself speaks volumes, it speaks wonders and miracles: a town divided, in this case, is more promising than a town crying out for Robinson’s imprisonment and death. From then on, despite the demise of a resilient and wrongly hated character, the truth prevails and Bob Ewell is no longer a respected resident of the town. In a modern eye he is the fatal, shadowy antagonist of this tale and Tom Robinson is the beacon of hope – the mockingbird itself in many respects.
Harper Lee has previously expressed preference with being compared with the reclusive character Boo Radley, over the dynamic Finch, who gives the younger characters a real taste of the fantastical and eventually a life-saving reality. This is rather apt: she allows us into this fictional world she has constructed, using her own personal experiences and opened our eyes to a reality we were, as later generations, luckily to have not been born into.
Go Set a Watchman is expected to have a print run of two million copies, to be printed for sale on the 14th July 2015.
This will inevitably mean more quotes for students – though this isn’t necessarily a negative concept. Just as long as the Mufasa of Maycomb, Atticus Finch, is still as heroic as he was before, and Scout Finch is just as skeptical, I think we’re all set for another inspirational journey.