Every book I’ve ever analysed, I’ve ended up hating in some way. Rather than limit this annoyance to the UK’s Secondary education curriculum, I’ve decided to pay for 3 more years of it. You tell me.
(of course, one of the finer elements of first year English Literature study is questioning preconceived notions of literature, particularly an unwillingness to actively engage with every facet of a text. I’m blaming Gove instead of my inherent fear of being wrong).
I am, however, very glad that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ evaded my GCSE exploits, because I can love it wholeheartedly without fear of assessment. It’s been out near-on 60 years, so I won’t bore you with a plot summary. I’ll bore you with my (likely unoriginal) observations.
For a bildungsroman, it’s an unconventional coming-of-age. Most surrounding the issue of growing up focus on teenage to adulthood, so Scout’s childlike observation is refreshingly free of angst (got enough of that on my own). Viewing a highly contentious time through the blissful ignorance of a child was often lost on me, not realising that Scout had broken up a lynch mob outside the prison until I read other reviews and summaries. This misunderstanding is no fault of Lee’s writing, which sometimes felt a little over-descriptive if anything.
For a 60-year-old, the book remains relevant and adaptable to 2019. The pervading story of doing the right thing despite the societal consequences mark this work as an utterly human story, whilst also navigating differences in identity. Some could argue the character of Atticus is a ‘White Saviour’ used to save those he (the group he represents) collectively oppress. However, Atticus is a symbol of solidarity, using his privilege to bring those up to his level rather than complicity oppress those without voice. I was surprised to see the character of Calpurnia so well fleshed out, considering Lee created a believable child narrative whilst also defying the oppressive double bind facing black women historically silenced in Western literature.
Simply put, this book stays with you. It is equal parts enjoyable and impactful, moral without being preachy, simple yet complex. The world would be a better place if we all embodies the spirit of Atticus and the outlook of Scout.
p.s. I’m dressing as Ham Scout for Hallowe’en 2019