The sixth grade seemed to please him from the beginning: he went through a brief Egyptian Period that baffled me – he tried to walk flat a great deal, sticking one arm in front of him and one in back of him, putting one foot behind the other. He declared Egyptians walked that way; I said if they did I didn’t see how they got anything done, but Jem said they accomplished more than the Americans ever did, they invented toilet paper and perpetual embalming, and asked where would we be today if they hadn’t? Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.
One of my favorite parts about this novel was that it’s told from the point of view of a 6-year-old girl, so every now and then we get to enjoy hilarious commentaries like this one about the Egyptians. Scout’s childhood perspective serves more than to amuse us, however. Her innocence and unprejudiced outlook on life brings us emotional conviction, but one that inspires hope in us instead of guilt or regret. To Kill a Mockingbird takes place shortly before the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, so there is a great deal of racial tension going on that is presented through the eyes of a child, which is genius, in my opinion. I loved that Harper Lee did that; having Scout narrate her observations was a powerful way of highlighting not only the injustice in racism, but the injustice in all prejudices. I think one of my favorite scenes in this novel happened during the big court case, when Scout and Dill stepped outside for a moment and ended up having a conversation with Mr. Raymond, “the town drunk”. Mr. Raymond is known for stumbling around town nursing a brown paper bag-covered bottle. When Dill comes out of the courthouse with an upset stomach, Mr. Raymond offers him a sip of his drink to help him feel better, and this is when we find out that all Mr. Raymond has been drinking is Coca-Cola. The reason? Because the townspeople don’t agree with Mr. Raymond’s lifestyle (he has “mixed” children), so he feels the need to give them a reason for his actions–or something they can blame them on.
I had never encountered a being who deliberately perpetrated fraud against himself. But why had he entrusted us with his deepest secret? I asked him why. “Because you’re children and you can understand it…”
I love this statement that children can understand what adults are often blinded from. They haven’t been as tainted by prejudices like adults have been. And in Scout’s case, this can be attributed to her moral upbringing by her father, Atticus. Let me just say that Atticus is my favorite fictional parent ever–I inspire to be like him when I’m a parent one day. He shows how important moral education is for children, and I believe the book argues that moral education is the responsibility of the parent, and not the responsibility of teachers or even extended family members. Whenever Scout and Jem have questions, Atticus answers them, and he answers them in a way that his children can understand. Whenever they have faulty opinions, Atticus realigns them, and he does it in a way that doesn’t belittle his children. He takes his role as a father very seriously and he always leads by example. This theme of childhood innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird was incredibly powerful to me as a reader. I mentioned at the beginning that Scout’s narration produced this inspiring emotional conviction in me, and I don’t think I would have been as impacted by this novel if it had been written from any other POV, even if Jem had been the narrator. I loved Jem, he was a great older brother, but he was already a little too grown up to be the most effective narrator. But, he and Scout both gave me plenty of chuckles from quotes like the one I’m about to end this post with:
As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.
Clearly there are countless of things to be said about To Kill a Mockingbird, but what were the ones that stood out to you the most?