Harper Lee: A Message Sent Through Time

Posted: March 28, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I finally finished reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ today and can honestly say that I think I am going soft in my old age – I say old age as though I am approaching my twilight years, when I am in fact a sprightly thirty-six years old.

The thing is, Harper Lee told her tale so convincingly; crafted her characters so well, that I found myself becoming quite emotional as I realised the story was coming to a conclusion, leaving me with a sense that I was going to miss the daily events taking place in Maycomb; in particular, those affecting the Finch household.

In a previous blog I wrote that the threat of censorship of the classic novels from our past meant book readers should seek out To Kill A Mockingbird, before it was adapted to fit into our ever increasingly politically correct world.

However, I now implore book lovers everywhere to indulge in the wonder of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel, just because it is a marvellous piece of literature that each and every one of us should take the opportunity to behold.  The lessons it teaches us about tolerance, equality and human rights are much more profound, much more articulate and altogether more wholesomely genuine than you will ever find in a thousand episodes of Jeremy Kyle or Sally Jessy Raphael.

If ever you wish to see the naked truth of a subject, look at it through the eyes of a child. Harper Lee obviously knew this; as the entire account of what happened to the inhabitants of Maycomb are told to readers by the innocent, brutally honest and surprisingly perceptive Jean Louise Finch – affectionately known as Scout.

Through the four years chronicled in To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout takes a voyage of discovery that ultimately teaches her what life is about, but also allows her to teach us what life should be about. I won’t divulge any spoilers, but when Scout realises she has finally met the reclusive Boo (Arthur) Radley for the first time, her greeting “Hey Boo…” literally brought a lump to my throat and immediately made me smile.

You see, it was also at this moment in the book, the final act; when we hear the Sheriff declare his intent to protect Boo Radley’s way of life and Scout’s moment of self-reflection, that my mind wandered as I thought of the observation I hinted at in another blog ‘Square Peg, Round Planet’.

I noted that there would be no such thing as humanity if we were all the same and that being different to everyone else was in fact, alright.  It was therefore quite a surreal moment to finish this book, so soon after posting that blog, and feel that Harper, all those years ago, had penned this novel, with characters who would make such a similar observation – thus allowing me to me happen upon a literary message in a bottle; a virtual lesson left waiting for me in time.

So please, go out and pick up a copy; see what lessons Harper has in store for you – if you find no messages in its pages, fear not – the enjoyment you will get from the experience will mean you will in no way feel it was a waste of your time.

  1. I read this book about 18 years ago for my English class and I remember it well. Even today, the lessons have had a profound effect on me and my perception of humanity- it’s true form or at least what it should be. As I read your take on Harper Lee’s insight and your emotional reaction to it, my eyes squint a little as some of the deep-seated thoughts that this book evoked for me back then, start to materialise again. Thanks for sharing :). K

  2. ajjam says:

    Hi Mark,

    I had to read “To Kill A Mockingbird” for English class at school, and it remains a personal favourite to this day, more than 25 years later.

    Despite – and perhaps also because of – the story of Tom Robinson within the book (no significant spoilers here), it is a joyous read, and you are sad to conclude it. You wish for more adventures with Scout, Jem and Dill and to find out more about Boo Radley. I am however grateful that some sequels were never made!

    That said, if you get the chance to see the movie with Gregory Peck playing Atticus Finch, then do so, but preferably you should read the book first, even if it takes away from the movie (it’s better that way than the other way around), as the movie is one of the best book adaptations ever set to screen. It does the book justice.

    Everything you say about the story I concur with. It’s also funny to me to read that, as you remind me that it was one of several books that my class needed to study at school, and I was a fastidious student of English (and still am) who would read-up on the books as soon as possible.

    Knowing this about me, when it got to the time to concentrate on this book in class, a friend, who had not kept up with his reading, turned to me and asked what the book was like. My reply was simple, if not very helpful. “It’s wonderful”, I said.

    I was caught wanting, but it was the only thing I could think of that could convey all of what you can say about this book in that moment that I had in which to do so, before (no doubt) I would have been told off by the teacher for talking and, therefore, not paying attention.

    I might also add that I cannot ever recall anyone with a bad word to say about this book. I can understand that for some, the subject matter might prove to be off-putting, and they may not want to read and finish it, but those that do, all seem to appreciate this book – and they all say more or less the same thing – which is what you have said above.

    I think that makes this book even more remarkable, and the closest thing there is to a ‘must read book for everyone’.



    • ‘It’s wonderful’ sums it up perfectly – a definite ‘must read book’.

      Thanks for reading and posting such a brilliant and conclusive comment (makes me want to read the book again 😉 ).

  3. Phil Ruse says:

    It’s a long time since I’ve read this – I remember the humour too, which given the subject might seem a strange thing to say. I certainly remember that feeling of having been on a journey with Scout & not wanting it too end. You’ve convinced me I must read it again!

    • The humour is brilliant isn’t it! I fell in love with Scout when she first stands up for young Cunningham about borrowing money for lunch.

      I now need to get the DVD for my ever growing collection.

  4. Tee says:

    Like you, this is one that’s been on my ‘to be read’ pile for a very long time. Think you might’ve just persuaded me to actually read it… 🙂

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