“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.” (To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee)
It’s funny what almost twenty years can do to your memory of a book. I only foggily remembered Boo Radley, completely forgot Tom Robinson’s trial, and was entirely surprised the whole Ewell situation. What I did remember turned out to be a small sub-plot, barely a chapter’s worth of material: Jem’s reading to Mrs. Dubose. I didn’t even quite remember who was reading to whom, but I did remember that someone left the world “beholden to nothing and nobody” because of reading. The idea that reading can help a person through anything, even addiction to morphine, never left me. More than the racial tensions, the familial interactions, the lessons on bravery, Lee’s description of the power of reading was what stuck with me through the years.
I think that my selected memory says more about To Kill and Mockingbird than it does about my psychology. The characters and plot are so varied and uninterpreted that this book must mean something different to each reader, each time it’s read. For a book that was supposedly intended to be the story of a brother’s broken arm, just think of all the subjects and plots that Lee touched on. I bet you couldn’t enumerate them all, even if you finished the book just now. It’s perhaps possible to claim that Lee’s ‘point’ was to highlight racial prejudice, but she did it by letting her characters act naturally, meandering through their full thoughts and lives, touching on everything that touched them, instead of focusing on just one moral, just one point.
Recommended Action: Buy –
Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Ending: Wrapped-up, natural, satisfying
Incidental Learning: 1930’s southern America
Further Reading: In Cold Blood. Just like her dear friend, Truman Capote, Lee doesn’t get between the book and the reader. She lets her characters speak for themselves. Though their topics and plots couldn’t be more diverse, the two books are linked in my mind. I read them one after another, and that seemed to go well for me.