July 17, 2017
To Kill a Mockingbird
When you think of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee, you may think of racism in the southern United States during the 1930's, but I found this book to be so much more.
I first read this book in high school many years ago and I've always had fond memories of it. So I finally decided to pick it up again this year, and I'm so glad I did. I just love this book so much!
This book is about family, and about treating others fairly and equally. It's about teaching your children these things and how important the home and family are for children.
It's about a single father (Atticus) in his later years (50 years old) raising two small children after his wife passes away. Atticus is a lawyer and wonderful father, I loved so much about him. The way he talked to his children as fellow human beings, the way he treated others fairly and with grace, and the way he lived a simple, but meaningful life.
This book deals with the serious issue of racism, but like I said earlier, it's so much more than that. Attitudes start in the home and a parents expressed thoughts often become deeply rooted in their children.
I thought I'd share one conversation Atticus has with his young daughter Scout, about racism and name calling.
"'Atticus', I said one evening, 'what exactly is a n_____-lover?'
Atticus's face was grave. 'Has somebody been calling you that?'
'No sir, Mrs. Dubose calls you that. She warms up every afternoon calling you that. Francis called me that last Christmas, that's where I first heard it.'
'Is that the reason you jumped on him?' asked Atticus.
'Then why are you asking me what it means?'
I tried to explain to Atticus that it wasn't so much what Francis said that had infuriated me as the way he had said it. 'It was like he'd said snot-nose or somethin.'
'Scout,' said Atticus, ' n_____-lover is just one of those terms that don't mean anything - like snot-nose. It's hard to explain - ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favouring Negros over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.'
'You aren't really a n_____-lover, then , are you?'
'I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody...I'm hard put, sometimes - baby, it's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you. So don't let Mrs. Dubose get you down. She had enough troubles of her own.'"
This conversation has so much meaning, for so many reasons.
1. Atticus is talking to his daughter as he would talk to any human being. With respect and helpfulness.
2. He doesn't direct his anger towards those who said this, but generalizes the type of person who uses this language.
3.He is clear on what is right and wrong.
4. He explains ignorance.
5. He has no problem being called this because he thinks of all people as equal and are meant to be loved.
6. He thinks of others and their troubles, so advises not to let these words get his daughter down.
This conversation lets his daughter know clearly, that this language is wrong and ignorant, but also teaches her to love all people and remember everyone is going through something.
There were many wonderful conversations between Atticus and his children. It's one of the things I love most about this book.
One of my favorite scenes in the book is when the children's housekeeper Calpurnia, because Atticus is away on business, takes the children to her African American church. At the end of the service the minister asks the congregation to donate to the family of Tom Robinson because he has been falsely accused and is sitting in jail awaiting trial.
"Reverend Sykes closed his sermon. He stood beside a table in front of the pulpit and requested the morning offering, a proceeding that was strange to Jem and me. One by one, the congregation came forward and dropped nickels and dimes into a black enamelled coffee can. Jem and I followed suit, and received a soft, 'Thank you, thank you,' as our dimes clinked.
To our amazement, Reverend Sykes emptied the can on to the table and raked the coins into his hand. He straightened up and said, 'This is not enough, we must have ten dollars.'
The congregation stirred. 'You all know what it's for - Helen can't leave those children to work while Tom's in jail. If everyone gives one more dime, we'll have it -' Reverend Sykes waved his hand and called to someone in the back of the church. 'Alec, shut the doors. Nobody leaves here till we have ten dollars.'
Calpurnia scratched in her handbag and brought forth a battered leather coin purse. 'Naw, Cal,' Jem whispered, when she handed him a shiny quarter, 'we can put ours in. Gimme your dime, Scout.'
The church was becoming stuffy, and it occurred to me that Reverend Sykes intended to sweat the amount due out of his flock. Fans crackled, feet shuffled, tobacco-chewers were in agony.
Reverend Sykes startled me by saying sternly, 'Carlow Richardson, I haven't seen you up this aisle yet.'
A thin man in khaki pants came up the aisle and deposited a coin. The congregation murmured approval.
Reverend Sykes then said, 'I want all of you with no children to make a sacrifice and give one more dime apiece. Then we'll have it.'
Slowly, painfully, the ten dollars were collected. The door was opened, and the gust of warm air revived us. Zeebo lined On Jordan's Stormy Banks, and church was over."
A pastor who encourages his congregation to help a family in need and won't take no for an answer! I so enjoyed reading this and the straightforwardness of this pastor! : )
If you haven't read 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' I highly recommend you do. It had a huge impact on me as a teen and now I've been reminded why. It's a moving and beautiful story everyone should read.
*Warning: There are a few mild curse words and the use of the 'N' word throughout.
Buy it HERE on Amazon