Don’t Kill That Mockingbird

10 07 2010

Is To Kill a Mockingbird not radical enough?

Here’s some food for thought:

Okay. I will admit to some bias on this matter. I’m a fan of Harper Lee. I’m a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. I think writing the story she did, when she did (remember, this was published during the middle of The Civil Rights era), was a very brave thing to do. Even with a few courtroom speeches, the book itself still reads well today. It doesn’t come across as preachy, and that is why, I think, it stands up so well. This is why so many young adults and children read this book in school and still find things to relate to in the characters fifty years later. The message in it is still powerful.

Besides, the little boy who played Jem in the movie was my mom’s first kiss. Seriously. So, yeah, the story holds a special place in my heart.

So, I don’t think the issue of it being too radical or not radical enough is really an issue. It was a good story with a moral center grounded in the reality of its time. And it did deal directly with some controversial issues for its time. I think I agree with the author of the article above. Were it to be more radical, it would devolve into a philosophical tract and it would lose its luster as literature. The best literature tries to capture reality, and reality is often more muddled and subtle than idealists would like, no matter how good their ideals may be.

Here’s the well-written (yet flawed) original argument from The New Yorker The flaw inherent in his argument is noble. He wishes the author would have worked out and voiced ways to change society in her novel — a change towards a world with more equality. Yet, what he doesn’t take into account — what I think is unfair — is how many lives Harper Lee actually changed with the publication of her novel. It humanized racial issues for a lot of people. It may not have been the catalyst for change, it may not have had all the answers, yet thebook still speaks to people through the head and the heart. It is still the catalyst for discussions fifty years later. I think that alone makes it a success.




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