Friday, September 7, 2018

Review: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

Rating: 3/5 stars

I had to read this book for school in the fourth grade, and it was the only school-assigned reading that I never finished, believe it or not. I always read the assigned books in school because I’ve always loved reading, but I just hated this book so much that I could not bring myself to continue. (I think I reached about 30% before I gave up and watched the movie, which I also didn’t like.)

My life and views and understanding of the world have changed quite a bit in the last fourteen years since I first read this book at eight years old, so I wanted to give it another chance because it is such a beloved classic that I simply feel like I read too early in life.

I originally decided I wanted to reread To Kill a Mockingbird back when I read Beautiful Creatures and learned that Lena’s favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird and her dog’s name is Boo Radley (after finishing this book, I realized there are a ton of references to it in Beautiful Creatures that I had never noticed before). I liked Lena so much that I knew I needed to reread this book to know why it was her favorite. That’s probably a superficial reason but I don’t care because it was the reason that led me to not completely shun this book for the rest of my life. It has been nine years since I first read Beautiful Creatures, but at least I did finally pick up To Kill a Mockingbird again.

Let’s talk about the characters.

Miss Caroline is a deplorable teacher. She’s such a minor character that barely makes an appearance but she still frustrated me. What kind of teacher refuses to let her students excel when they are able? She won’t allow Scout to read or write in the first (and second) grade and gets angry that she already knows how to do so. Early literacy is something to celebrate! (And in today’s era, first grade isn’t even early to be reading or writing anymore.) I just have to remind myself that this book was written sixty years ago and leave it at that.

Atticus is a nice man and a good father, and I like the values he stands for, but he is a bit one-dimensional in this notion because his entire characterization is who he is from Scout’s point of view. He is the wise figure of the story and teaches Jem and Scout many lessons that any reader could benefit from. If only all men of this era could view equality the same way that Atticus does.

Scout is my favorite character. I like the innocence about her and how outspoken and determined she is.

Jem is another nice character who I totally forgot existed. I like that he is Scout’s friend and not just her brother, and that he protects her.

Dill is okay but I really only see him as a troublemaker. Did he really serve a purpose other than to be a random friend?

Boo Radley is kind of the central focus of the story, even though he’s really not. He’s an interesting character that you think you know everything about until he actually shows up at the end. I’m glad that Scout did eventually get to meet him.

I don’t have much to say about any of the other characters except that Bob Ewell got what he deserved and Tom Robinson deserved more than he got.

This story was eons more interesting now than I remember it being in the fourth grade. It might have helped that I listened to the audiobook this time, though. I actually don’t think I would’ve gotten through the book if it wasn’t for the audiobook because it made the slang and southern dialect much easier to digest. I am also glad that the narrator was enjoyable to listen to and didn’t have a heavy southern accent. I know that I would have had no desire to pick up this book and keep reading if it weren’t for the audio version.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”
I think this quote encapsulates a lot of what this book is about. There are a lot of valuable lessons and morals taught herein, and I think that’s why it’s such a beloved story.

Well, my rating increased from a 1.5 to a 3, so I’d say this was a worthwhile read that I’m glad I gave another chance to, but To Kill a Mockingbird still isn’t a book that I loved. I think my initial reading experience influenced my view of this book too much because when I think about this book I immediately think about how much I hated it when I was eight (and then how I spent fourteen years continually thinking it was a terrible book until now). While I don’t think it’s a terrible book anymore, I also don’t think it’s the best thing ever. I might reread it again one day in the very distant future, but it won’t ever become a beloved classic for me.

Side note: I have no desire to read Go Set a Watchman. That book is supposedly the early rough draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, not its sequel. It was written before To Kill a Mockingbird and supposedly couldn’t sell to a publisher initially. Lee found an editor to help her with the story, and they crafted it into what we know at To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t want to read Go Set a Watchman because A) I wasn’t interested in the story enough to want to read more about the characters, B) I have no interest in reading an unedited rough draft of Mockingbird because I’ve already had enough of that story, C) I’m aware that the characterization of key characters is vastly different in Watchman than it is in Mockingbird, and I do not want my view of the characters to be tainted (I’ve heard that Atticus is very racist in Go Set a Watchman, but I’m struggling to see how that’s possible after everything he did in To Kill a Mockingbird. That seems very inconsistent to me.), and D) I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t like the book anyway, so reading it would only be a waste of my time.

No comments:

Post a Comment