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Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

I liked the relationship that Atticus built up and maintained with his children, how he acknowledges them and tries to let them process and adopt some of his world views instead of either giving up that job to the community or forcing his views onto them.

I liked the humour, the discrete cynicism and critique. Also I like the fact that Atticus’s character is built up in such a way that he is never turned into a “white protector” trope.

However, there are some parts that I did not like. For example, if the emphasis of the book is growing up in racially prejudiced small town in Alabama, then the whole Boo Radley episode takes too much space without adding much to the main topic. This may especially be true for the end of the book.

Having the book end with the aftermath of the trial, perhaps with the Hitler’s Germany analogy at the missionary circle would keep and underline the emphasis. Everything after that seems to be just diluting it. It shifts the accent from the injustice of racial inequality and prejudices to the conflict with Bob Ewell. It’s almost as if it serves as an apology of the “good people of Maycomb”; there are:

  • good people (Atticus, his neighbours and other town folk),
  • confused but basically good people (Cunninghams and the forest folk)
  • “white trash” - bad people (Bob Ewell)
  • and ok, the “niggers”, but they don’t seem to play much part in the novel, at least not actively

By killing off Bob Ewell, does it mean that the justice is served? Now its all ok and all the sins are washed off?

There are also some details that don’t make much sense in that “night attack scene”. In the pitch dark where two kids struggle to find their bearing and walk home over bumpy terrain criss-crossed with tree roots, a (very) drunk man manages to follow them and engage them. This whole scene is (by chance?) seen by Boo Radley, who happens to be nearby lurking and also happens to have a kitchen knife with him. Or did he run back and fetch the kitchen knife?

Was this all a compromise that made it possible to publish the book in the first place?

Or maybe I got it all wrong and I give too much importance to the trial in the book, maybe it’s just one of the episodes, equally important as others: “Boo Radley”, “Mrs Dubose”, “Scout in school”, etc, that portray growing up in the Deep South in the 1930s…

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