Thursday, February 4, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird

When the idea first came to me to do this blog, I thought – which book or movie should I start with? In a moment of synchronicity, the decision was taken out of my hands when To Kill a Mockingbird came on the movie channel I was watching.

A Pulitzer Prize winning novel and later a Gregory Peck movie, TKAM has been required reading for every high school student since it was first written by Harper Lee back in 1960, but please do not let that influence your decision to read this book or see this movie as an adult. It IS worth your time to revisit the classic To Kill A Mockingbird.

Side Note: The movie tries to remain true to the book, but if you want to get the entire story, I suggest you watch the movie and read the book too because some characters and scenes were left out when they adapted the book to the silver screen.

Let’s begin:


“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.”

Plot Summary

Narrated in flashback by an adult Scout a.k.a. Jean Louise Finch and retold from the memories of Scout as a child (age 6-8), To Kill A Mockingbird takes place in the sleepy southern town of Maycomb, Alabama from 1932-1934. It was a time of screen doors, front porch swings, and scarred cigar boxes filled with childhood treasures. Scout lives with her widowed father Atticus Finch, her older brother (by four years) Jem, and Calpurnia or “Cal” the black housekeeper who is the “mother figure” in the Gregory Peck movie.

Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill who stays with his aunt during summer breaks. The three children are scared and fascinated by one of their neighbors, the “reclusive” Boo Radley and use their imaginations, fueled by the town-folk stories and gossip, to fabricate stories about his appearance and try to figure out ways to get Boo (played by Robert Duvall) out of his home where he lives with his parents. Following two summers of friendship Dill, Scout and Jem find that someone is leaving the Finch children small gifts in a tree outside the Radley place. Several times, the mysterious Boo makes gestures of affection to the children, but, to their disappointment, never appears in person.

A lawyer, Atticus is appointed by the court to defend a black man named Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman. Although many of Maycomb's citizens disapprove, Atticus agrees to defend Tom to the best of his ability.

In some of the best screen courtroom scenes, Atticus establishes that the accusers—Mayella and her father, Bob Ewell, the town drunk, are lying. Humiliated by the trial, Bob Ewell vows revenge and the rest I will leave for you to discover when you read the book or watch the movie.

Life Lessons

You were probably going to say that the main theme of TKAM is prejudice and you would be right. In the same vein, but equally important to me is the theme of “judging others without having all the facts,” a theme which Harper Lee used repeatedly in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

*Jem is upset with Atticus because his father will not play “football against the Methodists.” He sees his father as “too old” to be good at anything. Is Atticus too old or does he have enough confidence in himself to feel he does not have to prove to anyone who he really is?

*There are people in town who feel Atticus should not “try too hard” to defend a black man.

*We learn a good and gracious black man, Tom Robinson is being falsely accused of a crime by a white man of low character named Bob Ewell for the sake of Ewell’s pride. Will Tom be convicted because of the color of his skin?

*Boo Radley is labeled strange by the town-folk, but we discover there is MORE to him than meets the eye.

The list goes on and on….

How many times do we do this – judge others without having all the facts? We decide this person is good or bad without really taking the time to get to know them. We ask others “what is she/he like?” and then accept their subjective version of things, instead of finding out for ourselves. We label them and then go about the business of treating them according to the judgment that has been made about them by us or the community.

I think we do it because we are afraid. Even though we know in our hearts it is wrong, we go along with the “crowd” and point the finger at someone else, in the hope no one will look too closely at our lives and our flaws.

Is that fair? Not really. If you want to live a good and gracious life, then remember……

“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.”

A good quote to live by.

To Kill a Mockingbird Movie Cast

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch
Mary Badham as Jean Louise "Scout" Finch
Phillip Alford as Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch
Robert Duvall as Arthur "Boo" Radley
John Megna as Charles Baker "Dill" Harris
Alice Ghostley as Aunt Stephanie Crawford
Brock Peters as Tom Robinson
Frank Overton as Sheriff Heck Tate
Rosemary Murphy as Miss Maudie Atkinson
Ruth White as Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose
Estelle Evans as Calpurnia "Cal"
Richard Hale as Nathan Radley
James Anderson as Robert E. Lee "Bob" Ewell
Collin Wilcox as Mayella Violet Ewell
William Windom as Mr. Gilmer
Paul Fix as Judge Taylor
David Crawford as David Robinson
Dan White as Mob Leader
Crahan Denton as Walter Cunningham, Sr.
Steve Condit as Walter Cunningham, Jr.
Kim Hamilton as Helen Robinson
Kim Stanley as Jean Louise Finch as an adult (narrator)

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