One of the nicest things about the summer – whatever the weather – is summer reading. I don’t do enough of it – there are always chores to be done, a long list of ‘to do’s waking to become ‘ta da!’ As my friend would say, but nonetheless two trips to the library this summer have resulted in some fun, lighter, summer reads. Fantastic!
One novel I dusted down from the shelf again this summer was Harper Lee’s 60s Classic To Kill a Mockingbird. I chose to re-read it because of Harper Lee’s decision to release her – until now – unpublished novel that preceded the writing of To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m looking forward to reading that in due course.
It’s been a few years since I read Harper Lee – she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and deservedly so. What I love about the novel is it’s simple insight into the thinking of the residents of a sleepy Alabama town, long before the recognition of the civil rights movement spearheaded by heroes such as Rosa Banks and Martin Luther King, but an inkling into how ordinary white folk were beginning to wrestle with what it means to be human.
One of my favourite Quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird is Atticus explaining to his young daughter (nicknamed Scout) as to why he was about to embark on what seemed to be a futile case, and which almost none of he local people were in favour of.
“I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.”
“That man” is, of course, Tom Robinson, a partially disabled Negro, falsely accused of molesting and raping a young, white, dirt poor woman.
Atticus is a man of principle. He is a product of his time and place, so some of what he says does come across as odd – sexist or racist to our ears seven or so decades on – but his words and actions, and his young daughter’s exploration of them in an era which would have boxed her in, raised and groomed her to be a southern lady, suggest that Atticus has begun to challenge the status norm of treating people differently merely because of the colour of their skin.
Atticus teaches both his children a very important lesson in life
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
That isn’t always so easy to do …but is so important.