Wednesday, 24 February 2016

....just one kind of folks. Folks.

The passing of Nelle Harper Lee

I came to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird purely as a recommended read by a friend. I was 17 years old. I didn’t study it in school (my secondary school novel for O Level was William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.) I didn’t analyse the style or discuss the themes of Mockingbird. I came to the story of “how Jem broke his arm” as a reader, not a student, and was riveted by the story and the characters. Later I saw the film and chose to teach the novel during my career on about five different occasions. I’ve purchased Go Set A Watchman but haven’t yet opened it, though read a lot about it, including the negative reviews. I was sad to read about the death of Harper Lee but am immensely thankful that she wrote the book for which she is most famous.

Mary Badham as Scout, Gregory Peck as Atticus, Phillip Alford as Jem, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, Estelle Evans as Calpurnia, and Robert Duvall as Boo Radley in Robert Mulligan's 1962 film of To Kill A Mockingbird

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for”

Scout’s dual narrative voice (the older Scout narrating the experiences of young Scout) is disarmingly sophisticated so that the novel’s surprises (for example, the rabid dog scene, Mrs Dubose, Dolphus Raymond, the trial verdict, the fate of Tom Robinson, the revelation about who killed Bob Ewell, Heck Tate’s “justice”) all helped me as a teenager begin to understand moral relativity, the complexity of “truth” and the lesson that “you never really understand a person…. until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Up Close and Personal

From the day I finished it (“He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”) To Kill A Mockingbird has always made my list of Top Ten Reads. Re-reading it as an adult pays dividends each time and it has always been a privilege to hear the views of new readers who argue fresh points from their own perspectives. My American friend, Kerry Madden-Lunsford, was lucky to receive a hug from Harper Lee and she spent time in Monroeville with Ms Lee’s friends and neighbours researching a well-received biography. In the maelstrom of current affairs (in Europe, the US, the Middle East, Eurasia) Scout’s innocent distillation of Jem’s attempts to classify the different social groups in Maycomb is always worth remembering
“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
Kerry Madden and her biography of Harper Lee