Sunday, February 21, 2016

Harper Lee 1926-2016

 “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 
-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I came around to the "To Kill a Mockingbird" fan club only in the past year or so. I had seen the movie ,starring Gregory Peck, a long while ago and I did like it. Although I've had an aging paperback version collecting dust on my bookshelf I had never got around to reading it. It took an iPhone app and Audible subscription to finally bring me around. 

One month I finally selected To kill a mockingbird. The actress Sissy Spacek did the audio reading of the book. I think she did an incredible job as "Scout" in narrating the story. In the beginning though it seemed to start off slow. Harper Lee spent a lot of time painting the picture of small town southern life. At the same time she is also describing herself and her family and friends. It really isn't until halfway through until the meat of the story is introduced. 

The story is of course Atticus Finch defending a partially handicapped African American named Tom Robinson. Tom was not only the victim of the southern style racism. He was also the victim of poor timing and feeling empathy for a lonely abused and naive southern girl in her late teens.  While going through the trial it's quite apparent that the circumstantial evidence presented is quite suspect. The only problem is that this is Alabama in the 1930's. A Caucasian persons accusation against Blacks are rarely questioned. African Americans at the time are poorly defended if at all. Many times just receiving a token defense. 

The timing of listening this was just after the riots of Ferguson, Missouri and during the Baltimore riots of 2014. I couldn't help think that this book still has a lot of relevance to this day unfortunately. I do think much of the overt racism and segregation has been pushed back. Subtle and less in your face racism still exists. I'm not so sure we'll ever be totally free of of racism but I do think it can be minimized. 

After listening to the story I did view the movie again and like other books to movies I saw stuff that was missed or changed. That just goes with the territory as its hard to find any Hollywood adaptation that stays 100% to the book. It is what it is. 

I haven't had a chance to listen or read Harper Lee's recent release of "Go set a Watchman" which was actually Lee's first book but actually takes places years later with Scout as an adult and Atticus as her surprisingly racist father. Unlike many I don't find this totally surprising. In To Kill a Mockingbird nothing really suggests that he couldn't be racist and still defend Tom Robinson. In my mind he stood on principle of doing his job to his best ability. Perhaps I'll change my mind once I read or listen to the book.  Such is the wonder of books to make one think. 

Thank you Harper Lee for giving us much to think about.

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