Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ReView of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

Classics - 376pgs
Grand Central Publishing (first published 1960)

Someone told me lately 'read more than you write.'  It has just occurred to me at the moment that I may be doing just that without realizing it.  I read this book in mid-April, and I am just now getting around to posting it.  That will be the case with a few more books.  Anyway, this book is one of my all-time favorite books, along with 'Jane Eyre' and 'Frankenstein'.  I read this book day in and day out for about three to four days until I finished it. It is one of the most capturing books I have read so far.  I read part of it in high school, but I have a whole new level of appreciation for this book now.

I remember I was mesmerized by the flow of the book.  There is not one dull moment through the entire novel, and every event and moment is fully seized in its capacity to offer insight and depth.  The novel builds toward the end of the story in a profound manner that leaves you slightly breathless at the end.  I also loved the detailed and representative descriptions of all the events and people throughout the book.  I really enjoyed the waves of mystery alternated with unexpected moments of humor.  Additionally, the characters carried with them an element of fear, and as the reader I was fully captured by the element of curiosity to know the cause of that fear.

This novel is one of the richest and most universally profound novels I have read so far.  It made an impression on me in so many facets.  This novel is a piece of writing for everyone, whether it's for the youth in elementary schools, or the high school-ers, or adults years after they have first encountered it.  It will touch you, and it will enlighten you in ways you wouldn't expect to.  It really made me an impact on me, it left me feeling in ways almost as if it offered me a sense of love, if that makes sense.  It's one of those books that touches the human soul. 

As a product of a generation who has progressed from an age when nature and the outdoors were a child's main avenue of enjoyment to a modern world where technology and gadgets rule our youth's minds and attention, the relationship Jem and Scout have with one another and their relationship to nature and their surroundings definitely made an impression on me.  These are children who think about their environment, their circumstances, and the people around them.  They wonder if they're being cheated somehow by going to school.  They think about their neighbors and who they are and what they do.  They feel passionate about reading and writing. They inquire about the Egyptians, on how society associates meaningless and mundane characteristics to really rich and intricate cultures, about how we masquerade their great existence to distract from the real truth of their contributions to the world. They are aware of the sounds surrounding them, the weather, the sky, and wonder about the knowledge of trees.  They are children who think beyond themselves.

Conceptually, there are some really powerful and moving universal truths in this novel.  Among the many, there are just a few I remember: understanding depends just as much on the listener as it depends on the person explaining; different but not deficient; boys will be boys and sometimes girls will be girls in a boyish manner; the concept of being cynical stems from how you say what you are saying not so much what you are saying; 'making a step-it's a baby-step, but it's a step;' the wonder and curiosity of coping with things we don't necessarily understand, the concept of integrity and truth, of compassion and acceptance even if you may not agree, also concepts of religion and spirituality also play out, and even conceptual emphasis on the collective mind introduced by Jem.  I believe what makes a book timeless is exactly this, universal truths about humanity, the human spirit and soul.  And then when you take this into account with the notion that it touches each generation from the youngest to the oldest, this book is twice as timeless.

Above all, though, this book is on a grand scale a book of compassion.  There isn't a bigger theme than this, for me, in the book.  The mystery of Boo Radley kept me glued to the book until the end at which point it touched me to my very core.  He's the character who is described as the 'malevolent phantom.'  Without giving too much away from the book, because I really think this is the heart of the novel, I would have to say that he turns out to be the most compassionate hero of the town.  He's a character who stands on his own in the novel, and within the text of literature, I believe.  He's almost completely silent.  What we know of Boo Radley comes either from misconceptions and misunderstandings of him from other people, or from his own courageous and compassionate actions. And actions do peak louder than words. Truly one of my favorite silent characters in literature so far.

One of the greatest! Winner of the Pulitzer Prize!  And this year is its 50th Anniversary!

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